I wrote this on 3rd August 2005 to honour my mother’s sacrifice for the family. So on her 74th birthday on 2nd Oct 2016, I’d like to re-post this article here to say thank you for giving us something more than money can buy. The determination, perseverance and love for God that have made us see all our dreams come true.
Peddling Dreams From A Sewing Machine
By Shoba Mano aka Shoba Sadler
Falling asleep to the squeaking of the Singer sewing machine may not have been an ideal way to turn in for the night. But in our household it was the comforting sound of security. As long as my mother peddled away into the wee hours of the morning I knew I would have pocket money, decent shoes and an extra white shirt or two to go with my school pinafore.
How many times I’d hollered out to Mum that a customer was at the door for collection. Even passed on the sari blouses she had so carefully sewn, wrapped in transparent red plastic that shopkeepers use to pack groceries in, without a single thought to the toil that had gone into those blouses.
I suppose we all had a little bit of dad in us. Loving, but irresponsible. Possessing good intentions but poor at execution. Deep down we had known our family was different.
While the only notice that had to be given to other parents for a school excursion was the length of time it took to sign the approval form, for us it entailed no less than three weeks.
In order to provide us with the meagre food and bus fare and just-in-case pocket change, a whole lot of shuffling went on in our household and somewhere between trimming the grocery list and postponing the repair work on Mum’s favourite Indian slippers, the money would miraculously turn up.
The bigger life’s challenge the higher my mother arose to meet it. When it was time for all three of us to further our education, we received a most encouraging start. Three bright-eyed kids armed with only a portion of our college fees and a double portion of Mum’s determination, hopped on a plane to our respective universities across the seas.
Through the years the money she had given us ran out, but not our perseverance. It saw us through odd jobs, scholarships and remarkable grades.
When the dreaded phone call came to say dad had passed away, I had been in my second year of reading law. I thought I’d never miss the man.
After all, it was mum who helped us with homework, who taught us to pray, who gave us our allowances.
After spending all his money on friends and relatives, my dad had nothing left over. In the 23 years of my life until his death, I received only one birthday present from him.
To the outside world he was the Lord of the house. At a relative’s wedding he would proudly step forward bearing the gift.
Only we knew Mum had bought it. Yet she would be beaming and happy to stay in the shadows.
But watching him lying in the coffin, I knew a part of me had died with him. He was my father – for better or for worse. Suddenly his shortcomings did not matter anymore. His kindness flooded my mind. The times he cooked us a meal when mum was busy working. When he fed us hot soup as we lay in our beds with fever. I fervently wished I could have told him I loved him before he died.
I turned around and saw the grief that stooped my mother’s shoulders, which all of life’s difficulties could not bend, and I cried. At that moment I understood that she no more tolerated him than she tolerated us. It was never about tolerance. It was all about unconditional love.
Seeking a quiet moment of solace in the storeroom, I unwittingly stumbled upon the old sewing machine. Its square iron pedal discoloured where my mother’s feet had pressed. The sturdy, brown cables around the wheel, now frayed.
I had lost the chance to part with my father on amicable terms. I thought my mother’s fierce determination was all I needed to succeed.
I had wrestled out of life only a superficial success. However, the driving force that steered her determination instead brought much fulfilment. And that force was her capacity to love.