I cracked out my grandmother’s sewing kit today to repair a rip in one of my son’s favorite shirts.
Unlike my grandmother (and my mother), I’m terrible at sewing. My grandmother surely handed down some strong genes, but definitely not the sewing ones.
Nonna Silla (nonna is Italian for grandmother) was my dad’s mother. Silla Ferrini was her maiden name. She was born in Italy in 1892. She came to the U.S. as a married woman and worked as a seamstress in New York City. She later opened a dress shop in Greenwich Village with my grandfather where they worked until they both retired.
Nonna Silla lived with us.
She and I were very close. I felt her love, support and encouragement every single day. She seemed interested in everything I was doing and in all that I had to say.
What I remember most about her is that although she was a tiny woman, she was strong and she was spunky.
Already elderly by the time I was born, I saw that she never let her age stop her from doing anything she set her mind to.
I remember her purchasing and installing a crazy thigh exercise contraption when she 80 years old. Watching her using that thing (which had rubber slings she connected to the door frame and her ankles!) was enough proof for me of her determination to remain active and physically strong.
That was only one of the many times I witnessed her unwavering can-do attitude, incredible determination, and rebellious streak.
I was just ten years old when she died but she left an indelible mark on me.
Looking at her sewing box reminds me of the smell of her perfume, the jangle of her bracelets, the distinct scent of her Coty face powder and the feel of her fuzzy little elderly cheek when I would kiss her goodnight before I headed to bed.
My father used to remind me when speaking of my grandmother’s feistiness, that I too was from a long line of “Ferrini” women. All of them strong, smart, capable, independent, free-thinking women with a bit of a wild streak.
In the same line of Ferrini women is my cousin Norma who started and successfully ran a Montessori school as a single woman, along with two friends, long before it was mainstream to do so. She is now long retired, but she still travels the world alone as a senior.
And my late cousin Tiziana – who was a spiritual therapist, tarot reader, psychic and life-long practitioner of alternative beliefs even during times when it was quite challenging (to say the least) to be different.
Strong women, as the saying goes, may we know them, may we be them, and may we raise them. As the mother of three boys I’m hoping some of those genes make it down to the next generation.
I was blessed to have many strong women in my family, but with the needle in my hand today, I’m thinking of my grandmother in particular.
Cheers Nonna Silla – for rocking the second chapter of your life and for handing down your badass-female Ferrini genes (and your sewing kit).
Who are the strong women in your family?
What can we do to celebrate, honor and/or remember them? Make sure you pass that old sewing kit on down the line!
What else can we do to nourish and grow that strength in ourselves on days that we don’t feel as capable or confident or strong as we’d like?
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