Keionna Walton
Keionna Walton, NIU

Keionna Walton is a graduate of Kenwood Academy High School and enjoys writing, acting, music, and women’s studies. “My Crown of Glory” was therapeutic for Keionna, she said, because it helped her grow into a better person and writer. She said she hoped her essay would inspire others to be more accepting and loving of their own flaws.

“Noooooooooo!” I screamed with glee as Tionna pummeled me with the huge, fluffy, white pillows that once sat atop my mother’s high bed. The pillow fights my sister and I had on Thursday nights when my mother worked her late night shift at AT&T were the highlight of my day. I jumped around the huge king-sized bed avoiding another blow as I grabbed two pillows, ready to surprise Tionna with a sneak attack. “You guys better be careful,” my mother warned, “or somebody is going to get hurt!” She brushed her dark blue uniform and headed to our living room to notify my grandmother she was leaving. Those words didn’t mean anything to me at that time; it seemed that with youth came welcomed ignorance, and I made sure to never listen to my mother because after all, who could have real fun if there were any rules? The moment I heard the door slam shut, I lifted my five-year-old body from the bed and aimed for my sister’s head while she was facing the door with her eyes carefully watching to make sure my mother had really left. Finally, this was my moment: the sneak attack I was waiting for. The Rocky champion theme song came to mind as I lifted my arms high over my head and leaped toward Tionna, like a cheetah ready to attack his prey, as I belted a childish battle cry “Hiiiiiiiiiiyah!” Only I was too late; she heard me approaching, and she hit me with such force that I went crashing down to the hardwood floors. Everything seemed to go in slow motion. After that, all I saw was red and white: the florescent white shining from the hospital room, and the bright red blood covering my favorite Pocahontas pajamas.

The small chants of hospital machines beeping and hospital workers rushing and running around to save lives seemed to calm everyone but me. It was like the quiet before the storm that I felt in my mind, but a fire was raging inside my veins. I inhaled the metal and salt-like smell of blood as it seeped from the open wound on my head.  My bloodied hair stuck to my face like a hood pulled too tightly. The standard procedure was now finished, and the filling out of forms, the background information, and full body examination were complete. I sat atop the hospital bed with the long white paper, making noises as my body fidgeted from the cold and dull atmosphere. Time for the good news.

The room was quiet; my grandmother, with her short brown afro and raspy voice, stood holding my hand as she hummed one of her original lullabies to me, trying to soothe me from the pain that was racing around my mind. Finally, the nurse entered the room wearing a long white coat, clipboard and stethoscope in hand. She took a deep breath, opened her mouth, and went through her long list of medical terms. “While searching for her wound, we found that her fjhafhkadsf was not intact, and that made it difficult to afhggfhjfdgf her, and she efkhkjufhds, so we have come to the conclusion that we have to shave her hair off!”

The words lingered in the air, and I sat stiff, stiff like jeans starched to the point they had no life to them, stiff like I was frozen and couldn’t move.  The only noise in the room was the sound of the scissors expertly moving around my head, dropping my hair like dead rose petals that didn’t have a chance for revival and my quiet whimpers as my grandmother whispered in my ear, “You’re still beautiful no matter what.”

If I thought that was the end of my battle, I was dead wrong. With one red lollipop, thirty-five stitches, and a Flintstone band-aid as my badge of honor, I faced my next challenge, elementary school. The cool wind danced across my empty scalp as I realized the wind was reaching places on my head that I had never felt before. The hair that had once covered my ears and saved me from the winter rages was now replaced with big gray Bugs Bunny earmuffs and a scarf wrapped around my head. Every day the kids teased me and called me names like “Baldy Walton” or “Bald head, small head.” I was so hurt that I hated every part of school. I cursed those evil kindergarteners every single day of my life. I started hating myself more; I was nothing without my crown of glory. I was now bald. There was nothing there, no hair to hide behind; all you could see were me and my ugly scar. After the stitches were removed, I was not happy to learn they were being replaced with a large dent the size of Africa in the middle of my head. It was just my luck that now that my ugly scar had healed, I had a dent in my head. For the next eleven years, I did everything in my power to grow my hair. I hated myself for what I looked like; I thought having long lustrous hair would make me beautiful. I wanted wigs. I wanted bangs. I wanted anything I could hide behind because then I could hide and never have to face the truth: I didn’t love myself.

Then I was thirteen… I lost my grandmother to a short battle with pancreatic cancer, and before she died, I remember sitting in her bedroom with her as she removed her scarf. She was completely bald due to hair loss from chemotherapy. I remember becoming frantic and thinking that she needed a wig or a hat to cover up her hair loss, but every time I offered her one, she just shook her head no. Finally she replied, “I don’t need it baby. This is me and all my glory,” and she rubbed her head and smiled. Until that moment, I hadn’t seen anything more beautiful in my life. That smile seemed to be only meant for me, as if I understood what it was like to lose something I thought meant the world to me: my hair. But it was only then that I realized there were much more important things in life.

After years of trying to grow my hair back, I finally thought that I achieved what I had been looking for my whole life. I was finally where I wanted to be. I had long hair. I had the world, but I still felt empty on the inside.  It soon dawned on me long hair wasn’t what I was looking for either. I just wanted to be accepted, and the only person who didn’t accept me was myself. For years, I was trying to be somebody else, look like somebody else, but I never took the time to understand that if I was somebody else, then who would be me? On that day, I had an epiphany. I grabbed my brother’s shiny new clippers, and cut all of the hair that I was so attached to, the dream that I thought became real. I watched my hair fall to the floor, but this time it didn’t resemble dead rose petals. This time, the pieces looked like long chains finally breaking free from the handcuffs I had placed on them.  I stood in the mirror and admired my new bald do. Everyone thought I was crazy, but for once I was happy with whom I was. I was me. I now understood that I didn’t have to hide anymore, and I wanted the world to see me for who I was all along. I rubbed my hand over my short haircut and smiled as I rubbed the dent I once hated so much. It wasn’t ugly any more; it represented something, something more than I ever believed it could. It represented a struggle for beauty, acceptance, forgiveness, compassion, and joy all in one. It represented a newfound lease on life, a life that I was finally ready to live.

Published by Aaron Geiger

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