Monday, 17 October 2011

Inheritance of loss

Little did I realise my dying mother’s need when she tried to press upon me her old sewing machine. ‘It’s good you can use it, I know you have a new one but this is strong, it works well and see Bruno stripped it down, it runs like new.’

Like new, unlike her, ‘Here take my sewing machine, I must know it goes on because it represents the self that was lost in my migration from southern Italy,’ she was really saying. The seamstress, once respected, who supported hungry post-war siblings and parents marked out as different through her design skill and use of technology. And, as difference often does, made her a target for a narrow-minded rural community who vilified her for her stylish clothes, her vivacity and her desire to escape.

The arrival of this sewing machine in our house, a symbol of her being from which my childhood clothes emanated, partly restored some reputation. But often she’d lament her loss of past status, unable to start her own business due to fear, ‘I could have been somebody but your father said “no Lucy, the authorities, we don’t want to attract attention…”’ But of course that is exactly what she did want.

I have to keep it.

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