Uncorking memories- #Memoir #Writing

The heady yet pleasant fragrance of jasmine and coconut wafts upwards, teasing my nostrils and sparking a flood of memories from twenty, no, thirty years ago. Has it really been that long?

Photo credit: Phu Thin Co (Under CC license)

My palms are slick as the oil gently soaks into the skin yet glistens engagingly on the surface, conjuring up a thousand thoughts- of mom’s fingers running through my unruly knots, gently teasing the strands apart, making sure I didn’t wince in pain as the movements nudged my head back and forth.

One eye on the clock: as always. There wasn’t time to do it at leisure, not with two girls, each with hair that dropped all the way down to their waists. Undone hair was never an allowance at home, not when it meant hours of straightening later, without the fancy tools we find at those upscale parlours. No, our tools were the fingers at the ends of our hands.

Models in the advertisements on TV were envied. How ever did they get those long tresses that swayed and curved so tantalsingly without any tangles, ever? Did those shampoos really work as promised?

I’m brought back to the present, to the sight of my daughter’s straight and slick hair, as she waits for me to apply the oil on her dried strands. Seated behind her, I draw her close, her back fitting into the curve of my body. Leaning back with a comfortable snuggle, she rests her head on my chin. Gently, nudging it forward, I run my fingers through the roots , inhaling the odour of coconut as it fills my senses.

Removing the knots, those tiny twisted strands that have made themselves at home inside her hair, I finally satisfy myself by combing down from the top of the head to the tip of the hair, watching as it glides in poetic smoothness through the surface. All done, I pull delicately on her shoulders and let her snuggle against me and I read a book over her shoulder, my cheek resting against hers.

And I smile.

There’s something therapeutic about combing someone else’s hair.


*I’ve been reading a lot on writing styles and am trying to experiment with a few, especially in the realm of non-fiction and memoirs. This piece I readΒ touched upon using our memories to enhance our writing.

What do you think? Does this appeal to you?
Would you read a memoir written in this vein?
Feel free to let me know in the comments.

34 thoughts on “Uncorking memories- #Memoir #Writing

  1. came to your blog after long…touched by your write up as always…

  2. You write beautifully. I believe that Memoirs and the thought process are powerful not only to heal but also the amazing moments equip us with strength.

  3. I am in love with this piece. Your writing style… the description… the way you found the perfect words to describe those beautiful memories… brilliant. I always struggle to find the right words and end up using heaps of adjectives. Thank you for posting pieces so thoughtfully written.

  4. I think it would work wonderfully. Capturing mundane acts in a memoir strikes a chord with the reader, to delve into his/her own counter-memories of similar situations!

  5. Love the feeling I get reading this… Still a thing with my daughter even though she is 20 now, to comb my hair, and I hers, since she was a little girl:-) Lovely to read how you use your memories in writing. really loved it Shailaja:-) Almost as much as someone combing my hair…:-) LOL

  6. Thanks Tulika πŸ™‚ Glad it touched a chord. I try and do it at night sometimes but weeknights are so rushed that I look forward to the weekends when I get this time with her πŸ™‚

  7. This was beautiful Shailaja. It brought back memories of my mom oiling my hair and I realise how rarely I do it for N. Mostly it’s a hurried thing before school. I need to do this with her. It is such a wonderful way to bond.

  8. Welcome to my new home, Ramya! So glad to see you here.

    Yes, that afternoon siesta was a given after that warm oil massage and that shikakai hair wash. I still remember the earthy smell of shikakai that my grandmom would bottle religiously each time and hand over each week for our bathing ritual. Ah, to live in the land of memories. Some days, it’s a good thing.

  9. Shailaja,

    Yes I have such fond memories in this connection…Especially weekends of my childhood, as my mom did this simple ritual of combing the hair of her two girls.. I distinctly remember sitting in balcanoy of our home on a warm sunday afternoon and waiting for my turn , as mom detangled my sisters hair. The fragrant oil used to be so therapautic that it literally used to forceablly induce the afternoon siesa πŸ™‚ .. Blissful….Do I still sense the fragrance of the oil ? Probably….

  10. Ouch that memory doesn’t sound pleasant at all, Cathy! I do hope you have some other good ones to offset this one.

    Thank you so much for your kind words. How wonderful of you to say so <3

  11. Thank you so much, Kala πŸ™‚ I usually write introspective posts so this wasn’t a true experiment in that sense. I did want to know how this would read if it were a memoir. Would it compel to reader to keep reading further? What do you think?

  12. Wonderful sensory piece, Shailaja. You are so good at drawing us into the moment and feeling it right along with you. I could smell that coconut oil and feel you combing my hair, too.

    I don’t have lovely hair memories like that, I’m afraid. I do have a memory of my mom washing my hair at the sink. She would scrub so hard with those rough nurse’s fingers of hers, that I would wince and cry. And then to add insult to injury, I’d get soap in my eyes, too.

    Not a lovely memory but a vivid one. Ouch! My scalp is twinging thinking about it.

  13. This was beautiful, memories cane rushing back…how I waited for lazy Sundays for mom to oil my hair, and how I passed on the treatment to my younger sis. Bliss! πŸ™‚

    Very fluid and vivid writing, Shailaja! πŸ™‚

  14. Nicely done! Didn’t feel like an experiment, the flow was beautiful and vivid! And I do agree tapping into ones memories brings out the most real and relatable content.

  15. Sigh, tell me about it. I long for those days of nothingness, sitting by her side, worrying about nothing beyond what to study for the next test. As we grow, how our priorities and worries change, don’t they? I see Gy and yearn for that kind of carefree nature that comes with her life. Maybe it’s there and I don’t know how to tap into it well enough.

  16. Experimentation is the life blood of a writer? Who said that? Someone wise, I am guessing. I enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone and testing the waters, so to speak. Happy if it works.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Sid πŸ™‚

  17. That’s what a writer wants to hear, Naba; that I conjured up your own memories. How gratifying! Thank you. I’m sure you’ll be making some lovely ones of your own with little M very soon.

  18. Aah! Brought back memories from my past, when my mother uses to oil and comb my long hair! How I yearn for those warm moments shared with her..
    I did like your idea, Shailaja. Writing a post on memories is something I ought to do! Will open up flood gates and fill my heart with some much needed mommy-love!
    (Why do we have to grow and leave our mother’s warm embrace just to step out in this stressful world? )?

  19. I’m glad to see you experiment with your writing styles, Shailaja. And you’ve done this little piece rather well – your words helping the readers visualise the scenes you’ve mentioned.
    Good work!

  20. Certainly liked this technique of writing, Shailaja
    The way you took us to those memories, I almost went back to my mom oiling and combing my hair…It is indeed therapeutic, this entire exercise whether oiling one’s hair or someone else’s, though I like the former better πŸ™‚

  21. Oh I love the warmth generated by mustard oil! I’ve used it a lot for Gy when I used to give her a full body massage as a baby. She loved it too and would squirm out of my hands every single time! Thick, wavy hair is something that I deeply envy since mine was always thin and straight. It used to be healthy too. Now, sigh, never mind.

    I do notice that your parenting posts and a few others touch upon memories a good deal. So good to know.

  22. I had very thick, wavy hair since childhood and mum would patiently oil them with mustard oil and straighten them out removing knots. She would also give us a body massage with mustard oil and make us soak in the sun before bathing us. Even without oiling the hair, she was always game for gently massaging my hair. I loved it. I love it when someone does that to my hair. Since I don’t have a daughter, I love to plait or comb my niece’s hair and she indulges me. πŸ™‚ About fragrances, I have written a whole post on it. I actually utilize memories a lot when I write my posts. πŸ™‚

  23. Oh my daughter loves to do the same thing! But I don’t have long hair anymore, so she settles for doing it with her grandmother. Or her dolls πŸ™‚

    There’s really something comforting about the whole process, isn’t there?

  24. Yes I loved the link too,Gayatri. It kind of helped me see the way forward in terms of experimental writing and experiential writing. Such a depth of purpose awaits if we know how to tap the potential.

    Thank you for the kind comment. I am glad it resonated.

  25. What a heartwarming memoir πŸ™‚
    I’ve never had very long hair but my mother had knee length hair when I was a little girl and I used to love oiling them, playing with them while gently untangling the knots while she read stories to me and we spent our afternoons giggling away.
    I agree, combing someone else’s hair is therapeutic πŸ™‚

  26. Ah! Memories….! Such a lovely post Shailaja. I love reading memoirs as it connects me more with the writer. Thank you for sharing the link, very informative article. This post reminded me of my mom πŸ™‚

  27. Thank you so much, Seeya! I must say I am touched by the regularity of your visits to my blog. How heartwarming.

    Don’t tire yourself out though. Give yourself enough breaks from screen time. Blogs are not going anywhere πŸ™‚

  28. Thank you! Knowing you, I’m glad to hear it. I was hoping the flow wasn’t forced and managed to move comfortably back and forth.

Comments are closed.