I continue to get compliments on my full head of hair as it continues to naturally gray. My wife even complains: “I get the good hair in the next life.” It’s something I long took for granted, without anyone to thank for the good genes that I obviously inherited. My adopted dad had curly hair but had little to do with my unruly mop. I think most people assumed that I got it from him and his father who both had enviable locks. However, I didn’t carry their DNA, but now have pictures of my actual birth parents whose identity I discovered only a few years ago. 

My 86-year old birth mother has curls, but I’m not sure if they are natural or not. My birth father passed away ten years ago. Pictures show a certain star-quality appearance with a short gray beard but not much in the way of curls on top. I’m obviously never going to meet him, but there’s still that slim chance with her. I’ve never gotten to communicate with her, and family members indicate that she claims no connection or even recollection of me. Adoption and DNA records show otherwise, but she continues to hide “her little secret.” She was a 17-year old high school student when I was conceived and was soon sent away to the Suemma Coleman Home for Unwed Mothers to give birth under wraps. I was adopted two months later.

I think it was the curly hair that caused people to say that I looked so much like my dad, but there was no ADOPTED stamp on my forward to indicate otherwise. It was probably the only feature we shared in common, as I was much taller, broader, and more muscular. There were complimentary comments about my hair last night and thoughts  immediately turned to both my parents and birth parents. I want to give credit where credit is due, but currently have no way to do so except through this writing. Every time I get it cut, the stylist gushes with envy, wondering what products I use to maintain the look. I know in reality they are just probably trying to sell me something, and I surely disappoint in saying that I honestly do nothing but wash it with cheap shampoo. I also rarely blow dry in favor of just a towel and brush. It magically seems to fall in place. 

At one point in my life, I wanted it to be even curlier, like something out of the late 60’s Mod Squad TV series. I spent the money on a “perm,” which I initially thought was a radical change, but I’m not sure anyone really noticed the difference. I shyly hid in the car after leaving the salon and for some unknown reason, the side window exploded, causing me to be even more self-conscience. I think that it was just the extreme heat of a summer day after the lengthy procedure that I sat through, but I somehow thought everyone was making fun of my Shirley Temple-like “curly top.” They weren’t really breaking windows to get a glimpse of me. 

I’m proud of my hair, clearly the best-inherited feature that I possess, with maybe the exception of my smile. After all, I was known in my younger years as “Smiley” not “Curly.” I could see the same hint of a smile and crinkly eyes in the picture of my birth father. The style when I was young was the crew cut, so there were no curls in my school pictures, while in college it radically grew to my shoulders, revealing all the curls of a girl. I still try to keep it just over my ears today – if you’ve got it – flaunt it! It’s fascinating after all these years to begin to explore resemblances between myself and other DNA relatives. I never had that experience in all my years of growing up, and often wondered where this distinctive curly top came from?