By Alice Rose Crow
Inside an elongated brown oval box are kaapaat Granny made. Even after all this time I bring up the lid to catch her scent in the heap of perfect black knots she tied. There is the oil of silver hair she braided to the very tips down past her waist before collecting strays between her palms and rolling stray hair into a careful tickly bundle she then stored with the rest. Her Ivory fragrance lingers. A whiff of iqmik brings her full smile close. When I bring up the lid, Granny smiles through warm knowing eyes, tobacco-stained teeth worn down by a lifetime of chewing skins.
Kaapaat are handmade embellished hairnets worn by southwest Alaska women, mostly Russian Orthodox, to signify marriage. It’s been over 30 years since Granny made my first kaapaq. Granny repurposed Popsicle and Creamsicle sticks to act as mesh gauges. She hand-strung red seed beads and blue bugle beads onto thick black thread. She continued to hand-knot the thread to create a vee pattern big enough to contain my long hair. Then she strung the net to black elastic to keep my hair in place.
Granny went ahead on February 11, 1987. When I open the box and bring her kaapaqs to my face, Granny’s scent grounds me. It’s not really her scent. It’s mine from when my hair was long and raven black. It’s mine from when I coiled my hair around and around my hand to fold it into the kaapaq Granny made for me.
Copyright © Alice Rose Crow. All rights reserved.