"A Brother's Love"

When I was little, I had really long hair, down to my butt long. But, it was straight and limp as a piece of paper. I dreamed of wavy hair, how it might transform my looks from little girl to goddess. This little Pocahontas wanted to be Jaclyn Smith.

My cousin had this cool curling iron; it was white with a retractable barrel and little red teeth, and I wanted one. My family didn’t have much money, so buying a curling iron would be frivolous. I sometimes received hand-me-downs from my cousin, but she wouldn’t pass down that treasure for a long while to come.

Finally, on Christmas, after months of waiting, my wish came true – I finally got one! Now, I had never used an iron like this before, and I was so excited. I ran to the bathroom immediately to heat it up. The anticipation was killing me! I imagined a new mane as I looked into the mirror. Then, I started winding my long hair around the barrel over and over again. My hair was wound round that toothy barrel up to above my ear with over two inches thick of my tresses. I held it there for about a minute, waiting for the heat to penetrate my stubborn locks and mold them into divine curls. Then I started to pull the iron to release my new do. The problem was that the iron was not coming out. I began trying to untwirl it, but the iron only tangled more. I panicked. The red teeth bit at my head, and the iron burned my ear’s rim. I cried out. My mom slung open the door, “What’s the matter?”

I explained through tears what the wicked iron had done to me, and she unplugged it. She told me, “Wait til it cools off a bit, and I’ll get it out.”  I stood there looking at my smeared face in the mirror, knowing I was never going to look like Jaclyn Smith or any of the Angels for that matter. How could I when I didn’t even know how to use a curling iron correctly?

After my mom had exhausted herself trying to unwind my hair while listening to my screeching and crying, she became frustrated and said, “I’m just going to have to cut it out.”

That’s when my brother, my hero, sprang into action. I wasn’t sure at first whether he just liked long hair or if he didn’t want to be embarrassed by a little sister with a buzz cut. Nonetheless, he got a screwdriver and took the iron apart. Of course, the red spikes still dangled in my mess of hair, so he sat for what seemed like hours picking those pieces out. I don’t know if I really showed him much gratitude at the time; I was just relieved that ordeal was over, but that’s the thing about reflections: they open new windows of perspective.

When I look back, I see a champion. He saved me from a really bad haircut, yes, but it was more than that. With a seemingly small gesture, he showed me that he was on my side. I had never thought that my brother loved me before. Brothers and sisters don’t always get along. Before this event, I’m sure I had maintained the snot-nosed, kid-sister stereotype, the one who interferes with her brother and his friends, yet there he was, being kind and gentle when I made a stupid mistake and needed love.  He exhibited love that day that I didn’t know existed or that I deserved. I admit that even to this day, I still feel like I’m somehow betraying him when I get my hair cut.

I’d like to say that I was kinder to him after that, but I’m not sure that I was; however, something changed in the way I looked at my brother.

That was the first time I remember witnessing his big heart. There were other times before the curling iron incident of ’84 that my brother illustrated his kindness, but I didn’t realize what it was because I was much too young to identify altruism.  Once when I was likely only four years old, my mom was going to spank me, but my brother told me to “Run, Debbie, Run!” His seven or eight year old self ended up taking that whipping for me.

His benevolence didn’t stop when we were little though. I also remember his helping me learn how to drive. We went to a road outside of town, and he let me drive his car. Troy had been working on this old Camaro for months. It was mostly white with a black top. One fender was teal green. On that day, I got behind the wheel on that gravel road and drove! As we started down the hill, my brother said, “Slow down,” so I eased up on the gas. A minute or so later, I heard again, “Slow down, Debbie.” I gripped the steering wheel and thought “I am barely touching the gas. What more can I do?” Troy said, “Go ahead and turn left up here.” Well, with the speed and inability to judge distances much, I turned right into the ditch. Wham!   I had wrecked his car, and he didn’t even hate me (at least, not for long anyway).

He also helped me move my stuff from my mom and dad’s house when I got married. I told him that I’d pay the gas in his truck since my new apartment was in another town an hour away, but when we got to the gas station, my credit card wouldn’t work. My hero made only a little grumbling sound but got out and paid for it. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I ever repaid him.

I recognize now that there was always a special bond between us; I know that he truly loved me even when we were just kids. Troy makes a moving example of a loving and beautiful Christian that we should all aspire to be.  I admire his munificence and hope to be more like him in showing unselfish love to others even if they do something stupid like wind their hair too tightly around a curling iron, wreck my car or cheat me out of twenty dollars. 

Author Information: 
Cowley Faculty (Vol. 7: 2019)