When I was around 12, my grandmother gave me four nightgowns. They were originally gifts to her from my grandfather. They ended up being too small and so she gave them to me. Twenty years later, I still have and wear them. I like to believe it was the continuation of a family tradition. Years before, after my mother gave birth to me, my grandmother gave her a satin nightgown. More than thirty years later, my mom still has it and still wears it. Although now it is more like a toga than a nightgown. The sleeves are completely gone. And whenever my mom wears it, she has to tuck it under her arm. My brothers and I like to make jokes about how she cannot raise them. Otherwise the nightgown will fall. We would always ask why she was still wearing it when it had clearly surpassed its years of usage. My mom would simply reply, “Because my mother gave it to me. And, it’s still comfortable.”
For quite some time we would encourage my mom to get rid of the nightgown, but after my grandmother’s passing, I understood why my mom felt so strongly about keeping it. I tend to think it is the same reason I keep mine. They too are torn and missing buttons and held together by mismatched thread. As the slits in my nightgowns grow, and as I re-sew holes, I laugh at the idea of my children one day teasing me in the same way I tease my mother. Considering they are my children, it is highly likely they will crack jokes in the same way my brothers and I do. And I am okay with that, so long as they understand the deeper meaning behind keeping them.
They are more than an item to sleep in or to lounge around the house in. They are a connection to my grandmother. My nightgowns, as well as my mother’s, are the one tangible items we still have of Mama and her thoughtfulness. And those are pleasant memories that I just cannot put aside. Seeing the condition they are in now, I am going to have to bump up my sewing skills. I love my mom to death but I cannot do toga style. I have to be able to raise both arms.
Latanya Muhammad is an advisor, facilitator and freelance writer. To read more of her work, or to connect, visit www.shetanagain.com.