She uncovered the sewing machine. The cloth over it was a heavy linen which had covered it for decades. She pulled out the small wooden draws on the side and took out a small brush to dust it. She gently pulled it out from the dark corner to the light and then started to test the peddles which seemed to be stuck and made a funny creaking sound. She found an old bottle of machine oil, safely tucked inside the drawer and applied it to the various small machine parts while she tested the peddles over and over until it rolled with ease. Her numb hands fumbled with the parts and they dropped from her hands occasionally. She bent her head and strained her eyes as much as she could but she did not stop until she felt that she had given the sewing machine the proper care and touch which it needed. It seemed to me that at the end of that experience she looked exhilarated.
My tears flowed nonstop as I helped her with the sewing machine and observed the pensive and thoughtful look on her face. I know how much this sewing machine meant to her and I am sure that if she was right here with me, she would tell me that it was her lifeline. Back in 1929, women like my mom did not have the fair advantage to go to school. She was denied an education because she was the eldest child and had to stay home to help her mother with the house work. I believe that she must have been about fifteen when she learnt how to sew with one of the top seamstresses from the neighbouring village of Laborie. To get to her sewing classes, she had to walk almost an hour to and from the class. She got married about fifteen years as well and her father, who had been physically absent from most of her life, gave her the sewing machine – I believe as a wedding gift. She smartly invested her time in mastering the art and developed her small business in sewing tailored made clothing for the people in the community. She was one of the few seamstresses in the community. Many people came to our home with bags of cloth and styles of clothes from catalogues and gave countless instructions to my mom so that she could turn their visions into wearable garments.
Looking back, I can see what a great mom and entrepreneur she was! She kept everything in balance by waking up early, getting us all ready for school, cooking meals, doing all the house chores and creating the time to live her passion for sewing as well as earning an income. She sewed all of our clothes and uniforms as well as my dad’s pants and shirts and even the undergarments. Just before his death, he showed me some of the pants which she had made for him and which we still wore up to 2012! All of my three sisters and I learnt how to sew by watching her. However, she never wanted us to sew as a means of earning an income. She believed that we could do more than that and ensured that we had the support which we needed to have a good education.
As an adult, I appreciate all what my mom did a million times more now than I did while I was growing up. She had a lot less to work with – no education, less money, less opportunity, no management training, no marriage counselling, no parenting classes, no brands, no luxuries… but she had courage, faith, vision, great time management skills and knew how to prioritize her time to get things done. She lived her passion for sewing. I can only imagine the devastation she felt when she became blind and could no longer live her passion. Yet, she courageously accepted her fate and one of her favourite lines were “It is not my will but if God wills it for my life, I accept. ”
Those photos were taken in 2007 on my first visit to Saint Lucia after migrating to Canada in 2003. She crossed over in 2011. I will always hold on to those memories and I am glad that I captured those moments with those photos.
Live your future now. Do what matters to you and don’t wait for perfect circumstances.