I asked my grandma if she had an extra sewing machine, so I could pick up a useful skill during the pandemic quarantine. There were two old ones sitting on the floor of her garage. I picked them up and took them inside. She had a newer Singer model on the counter, and she was using it to sew face masks. She proceeded to pull out a fourth out of the seven that she owned. That was the one that I took home. One of the old ones from the garage floor didn’t work, so we put it to the side. But the other one, was full of stories.
My grandma removed the cover from the second machine to reveal a beautiful vintage Wizard Precision sewing machine. My grandma let out a gasp of joy, her eyes lit up, and she had a big smile on her face. She became like a child, who had just opened the toy they wanted on Christmas Day. She sat down and said to me, “I can’t let you have this one,” and then she proceeded to tell me stories of its role in her girlhood. She was overcome with nostalgia. She had the look on her face when one becomes temporarily entranced in her past. It was that feeling that you always want to make last. The sentimental feeling that gets better with age.
“Daddy told mama she wasn’t getting it. He came home and it was sitting right there,” she told me. My grandma is a natural artist. She can figure out how to make anything, and sew any pattern. She was making her own dresses, even though my great-grandmother would tell her she was doing it wrong for not following normal stitch patterns. It’s evident I come from a long line of strong women, who don’t submit to other people’s commands. Other people might call us hard-headed and stubborn. My great-grandmother was frustrated with my grandmother for being just like her, in the sense that she had a strong will and never deviated from her vision despite how it deviated from the norm.
My grandma had two daughters, and two granddaughters out of five grandchildren. We all seem to have inherited this gift, the attitude that we will do as we want. Every generation repeats. We pass down traumas, but also resilience. I’m thankful for our gift. My great-grandmother may have not realized that she was the foundation for future generations of matriarchs. Because of her precedent, we have continued to rise. The women in my family make me feel good about being a woman, despite the overwhelming influence of a patriarchal society.
Mothers have dreams for their children. They dream for us to go farther than they ever could. They work hard to give us the tools to exceed expectations. They prepare us for disappointment, and teach us lessons about overcoming adversity. They use stories to inspire us, and make us feel invincible. My mama’s dreams of me connect me to all of the amazing relatives that came before me. Our mamas are our direct connection to the spirit world, and they are our first spiritual teacher. Through them we meet our ancestors through blood and lessons. The greatest gift a mother gives is divine direction to our destiny.
I had a dream once that I was with my grandmother and my great-grandmother. We were in the kitchen
of an old home that was familiar to me, yet only in my dream. There were pinecones on the counter, and my grandmother and great-grandmother were cooking and making pinecone patchwork. I asked my mother what it meant, and she said that I will break generational curses and start generational blessings. Dreams keep us connected to the past, and also give us insight into the future. Only my mother can make meaning out of my dreams. I call her, and ask for her guidance when I wake up stuck. I rely on her experience to push me to become a better woman. Without my solid foundation of matriarchs, I would not be the woman that I am now.
This is the super power of every woman: divine intuition. We have the choice to continue to create life, and pass down tools to overcome obstacles that are generationally becoming more obsolete. Because of the women that have come before us, we have access to more tools that we need to continue to fight the good fight for common humanity.
My grandmother’s memory of her mother’s sewing machine reminded me of all the things I can be. What relic will trigger sweet sentiments of my mother to me? How will I pass down her memory? It was not the sewing machine that locked my grandmother in her nostalgic trance; it was my great grandmother’s spirit impressed upon it, that truly made her heart dance.
Aminah Ghaffar is a Lumbee and African American Indigenous Advocate from Pembroke, NC. She has a BS in Biology from ECU, where she also competed for the track and field team, and a MS in Physiology and Biophysics from Georgetown.