To me, braiding is St. Louis, Missouri. That’s where, as a kid, I’d sit at my aunt’s feet as she braided my hair for the summer. My sisters and I got box braids, typically with just our natural hair, but if our mother was feeling the urge to splurge, we’d throw some weave in there, too. My aunt lived in an apartment down the street from our duplex. We’d walk over not long after sunrise and stay until dark. My sisters and I would alternate sitting at her feet, sucking down mouth-staining ice pops during the day and Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice Red Beans & Rice at night. Despite the occasional pain (pulling too tight on my scalp), the braids were a welcome break from my rest-of-the-year hot-comb life. (That’s exactly what it sounds like: a hot comb, heated by the open flame of a stove top, that could press out the kinks in my hair.) Getting braids meant summer was coming, which meant more free time, more Popsicles, more family bonding, more good things.