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All I want for Christmas is curls

“That’s it!” I decided aloud. “I’ll sleep on my face.”

Plunk – a familiar sound on Christmas Eve. I knew exactly what it meant. A bag of pink curlers and a tin of pins were positioned in front of Mom and a painful head of curls was awaiting me.

I was clean as a whistle after soaking in the bathtub. My skin was covered in soft, pink wrinkles as the Christmas Eve bath was a requirement for the following morning church service. Once out of the tub, I dressed in my cotton pyjamas and slipped on my knitted slippers. Then it was time.

The sight of those pink curlers hurt my eyes long before they hurt my head. But there were few options! I had inherited my straight hair and if I wanted curls on Christmas Day, I would have to endure this. I longed to be grown up and watched intently as Mom set her hair each Saturday night. Grandma and my aunts all rolled their hair in curlers. I thought, “If they can sleep on them, then so can I.”

The first step of this ritual was to comb and part my damp hair straight down the centre. A curler was placed at the tip of a section of hair and Mom tugged at my scalp as she meticulously twisted tightly from hair end to scalp. Each curler was painstakingly rolled until each hair was tucked into place. Then carefully, Mom stretched a thin kerchief over the curlers and secured it with a knot at the back of my neck. That kerchief was to remain in place as I slept, to secure the curlers.

I carefully lowered my body into my bed trying not to move my neck. I didn’t want to jeopardize my curls. When my head gently brushed the pillow, I shot up in pain. The small bristles on the curlers felt like railway spikes as they pierced my tender scalp. The kerchief knot lodged into my neck. Doubts erased my optimism. “I’ll never be able to sleep,” I mumbled. Again I tried to rest my head on the pillow but it didn’t work. Maybe there was a reason Mom always slept on her side. I tried the side position but it was still uncomfortable. The minute the curlers wedged themselves between my head and the bed, the throbbing began.

As stubborn and determined as I was to have curls for Christmas, I eventually found a few more pillows to prop my body upright. However, my head always flopped to one side or back against the wall.

“That’s it!” I decided aloud. “I’ll sleep on my face.” After a few minutes I was having trouble breathing. That left my cheekbones to bear the weight of my head. They became very sore but the curlers stayed intact.

I counted each slow tick of my clock, willing it to tick faster. In the morning, there would be my precious curls for Christmas Day and the long-awaited removal of my hard plastic torturers.

Was all this pain and lost sleep worth it? Yes! I endured the fatigue for a head of curls on Christmas Day that would maybe last until noon.

– Sheila Braun writes from Landmark, Manitoba

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