When I was 13, I sang in the youth choir at my small Baptist church. My grandmother was the pianist and director. There were a dozen or so of us kids aged 10-15 and Grandma taught and fussed at us each week during choir practice until we got the songs prepared just right for Sunday.
One Sunday afternoon, our church was hosting another church for an afternoon program. It was a big deal to host another church from out of town, so we had to be on our best behavior. Grandma wanted our little youth choir to look good and she wanted us to sound good.
Of course, Grandma wanted to look good, too.
Earlier that morning, however, Grandma had an accident with one of her eyebrows. Her eyebrows were always plucked very thin and usually, she would fill them in with a pencil. However, on that particular morning, Grandma couldn’t find her tweezers, but there was a razor handy. I’m not sure how everything went down, but the bottom line was this: Grandma accidently shaved off one of her eyebrows. Then, she shaved off the other because she didn’t want to have only one eyebrow. (No, it’s not logical. Just keep reading…)
My girlfriends and I were in the choir room putting our choir robes over our summer Sunday dresses when Grandma rushed in with a frazzled look on her face.
“Girls, do any of you have a black eyebrow pencil?”
We’re 13 years old. None of us plucked our eyebrows yet. “No.”
“Oh, no!” exclaimed Grandma. She rushed over to the mirror on the sidewall. “I need a black eyebrow pencil, girls. My brows are gone.”
I stepped across the room toward my grandma as she looked in the mirror. Yes, indeedy, Grandma’s brows were gone.
One of my friends spoke up: “Miss Magnolia, I’ve got a navy blue eyeliner. Will that help?”
It was the late 80’s and blue eye shadow and blue eye pencils were all the rage, even for us brown-skinned kids. Looking back at photos, brown and blue weren’t a great color combination. At that moment, Grandma didn’t care. “Quick, give it to me.”
Grandma took that blue eyeliner pencil and drew on a set of new eyebrows. They were navy blue eyebrows, but since Grandma would be wearing a navy blue choir robe, so it seemed that things had worked out. Almost…
An hour later, our little youth choir took the choir stand and we were singing away. It was a really hot afternoon, so we kids were starting to sweat. So, was Grandma. She jammed those fingers over the piano keys like her life depended on it. Every now and then, she would raise one hand while playing in order to emphasize a note we were singing. I remember that day. We sounded great!
As we moved into the second song, we sweat even more. Grandma was sweating so much we would see the perspiration running over her new navy blue eye brows and down her face.
That’s when it happened. As I clapped in time with the music, I looked down in time to see my grandmother raise her hand toward her face. Noooooo!!!!
Yep. Grandma pulled her hand across the top of her forehead wiping away the sweat. And one of those blue eyebrows.
I don’t remember if I kept singing or what. My girlfriends also saw it happen and they started to giggle between breaths while singing. I remember looking at my beloved grandma, who didn’t know that she was pouring her heart out on that piano with only one eyebrow.
Yet, Grandma played on. Her one blue eyebrow raised, then crinkled, when she saw the other kids giggling, but that only made them snicker more.
A few minutes later, I saw more beads of sweat rolling down her face. Then, I saw her other hand go up toward the other side of her face. Oh no! Not again!
Um, yes. Grandma pulled her other hand across the other side of her forehead, wiping away the remaining blue eyebrow. I was horrified. Then, I laughed.
And Grandma got mad. Really mad. When we finished that final song, we exited the choir stand and Grandma ushered us back into the choir room to bless us out for our behavior. At one point, we got her to look in the mirror to see why we were laughing.
Then, it was Grandma’s turn to laugh.