I am five years old, it is sunday afternoon and we are at Tina’s Salon in Madina. Tina’s salon is a converted shipping container and this is our weekly hair appointment.

My mother looks at me through the big mirror that dominates the entire left wall and in a very serious voice she asks,

“Birri! What hairstyle shall we grace the world with this week?”

My name is Yaba. But over my five short years on earth, this woman has come up with every imaginable pet name known to mankind. I am Birri, I am Billi, I am Belli, I am Libelle and like every other Sunday afternoon, I, the girl with ten thousand monikers, has the explicit honour of choosing my own hairstyle.

I pretend to study the framed pictures on the corrugated wall behind me: I already know the style I want: I’ve known it ever since I stepped into Tina’s. But this particular hairstyle is a tricky one. If I’m not careful, the hairdresser’s might—

“Hmmm, I’m not sure.” I start

Theladies of the salon jump to my aid. 

“What about this one?”

“Or that one?”

“Ooo this…”

But none of them pick my hairstyle - which is unfortunate-they never laugh at me when they think it is their idea. 

I change tactic.

“No…maybe that one,” I point.

“Oh you did thatfor Christmas,” Aunty Tina of Tina’s Salon points back

“Okay, what about that one?” I point again

“Ah, we did that last week” another hairdresser reveals.

Its time.

“Then… I want that one.”

“Which one?”

“That one.”

“The girl with the bangs?”

“No the one after.”

“The woman with the braids?”

“No the one before.”

“Which one?!”

I get up, stand directly between the girl with the bangs and the woman with the braids and point.

“That one!”

 Tina’s salon comes crashing down in laughter.

My perfect hairstyle is a 14 by 22 gold embroidered portrait of HIM.The One. Jesus Christ. Widely suspected Son of God. His gleaming chestnut locks perfectly parted down the middle, each half lying obediently against his shoulders and crowned spectacularly by an orb of what I can only assume is pure sunlight. His fingers are curled around a blood red heart, suspiciously shaped like a cartoon heart, and though his mouth shows no emotion, there is a crinkle of a smile in His eyes. It is as though He knows, that I know , that He knows … He has the greatest hairstyle in the world.

A very serious voice breaks through the rubble of laughter,

“And Birri! What about the halo? Would you like that too?”

“Yes,” I respond, “but only if they can manage it.”

My mother turned sixty on Tuesday 13th December 2016. This is a big deal. A year ago, right on the brink of 2016, we were rushing her to Health Link in East Legon and after a week of sleeping in the hospital, we all prepared ourselves mentally for an unexpected surgery: There was a growth in her left kidney. She’s been through a lot but through it all she has carried myself, my two brothers, my little sister and my father always to laughter. So, on behalf of our family, and in the absence of the grand celebration she insisted against, I just wanted to say Happy [new] Year and Thank you. Thank you for the pet names, for the Sunday afternoons and for teaching me to laugh at myself… by always taking us a little too seriously.


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