Today is hair washing day. She sits in the tub and I wet her hair. She's getting so tall that neither of us can find a comfortable position to complete this task. As I soap her hair and create a lather, I scratch her head because it is comforting to her. She hates having her hair touched because she is tender-headed, but the scalp scratching causes her to calm down and coo. After just a few years, we have developed a rhythm.
"Why do we have hair on our bodies?"
"On our heads?"
"No, on our bodies?"
I search my science answer file and come up empty.
"I really don't remember."
She examines a scar on her leg. Then looks at her arms.
"I don't have hair on my body."
"One day you will. When you get older, you will have hair on your arms, your legs, under your arms, in your private area..."
I begin to rinse her hair.
"One day, you're also going to get breasts like me...well, maybe not exactly like me. I don't know how big they will be. And you will have a period and once a month you will bleed."
She turns her head slightly to the right and shifts her eyes in the same direction, not looking at me. Gazing at a thought in her head. This is what she does when she is seriously thinking about what is being said.
"Well, you have eggs in your body, and if nothing gets added to the egg to make a baby, then the egg comes out of your body. The blood feeds the egg if it becomes a baby, but if there is no baby, you don't need the blood."
We've had the "where do babies come from" talk already, so I don't need to explain much more than that at this time.
I put conditioner in her hair. She has a lot a hair on head. I remember when I did too, and I instantly think about my mom, silently praising her for her patience. Something I do regularly now that Aminata is here.
"We have eggs?"
"Not chicken sized eggs...smaller eggs."
"I'm telling you this now so you won't be scared when it happens. Grandma was 10 when it happened to her and nobody told her, so she was afraid. She told me about it when I was 9 and it happened to me when I was 11. I have a friend who got it when she was 8 years old, like you are now."
I section her hair and put the sections into double-strand twists.
"Do I have to grow up?"
"I don't want to."
"I didn't want to either. But it'll be okay."
Eyes shift again. She has beautiful eyes. She's been told this often. They are very expressive. When someone comments on her looks, she often likes to tell that person that I am her stepmom. It use to bother me, but now I get it. She doesn't look like me because she can't, so don't say that she does. Also, her mother is beautiful. She needs something from her mother. The other one. Because to her, I am her mother too--for now, maybe forever. But there's the possibility that she will go back and live with her mother for a while when she gets older. Maybe permanently if she likes living with her in France or Italy.
"Do you know when it will happen?"
"You don't know when it will happen?"
"No one does. It just happens."
She flinches as I tug the hair on the back of her head into a twist. This is the most sensitive spot. It hurts the most, she says.
"Can I stay a little girl?"
"For now, you can." Please do.