The Spiritual Experience of Getting a Hair Massage From Your Mother

“Parachute” is an ode to generations of mothers and grandmothers through the comforting and familiar scene of a tel massage. Like many South Asians, I grew up with my ammi, nani and dadi massaging Parachute oil into my hair. These moments were times of relaxation, conversation and togetherness for the women in my family. “Parachute” is also a reflection of my relationship with my mother. A daughter rarely what her mother has gone through. A mother rarely embraces rest and cares for herself. For me, it was only after I grew older that I finally comprehended the sacrifices of the many mothers who came before me.

[Read Related: Connecting my Stories With Those of my mom and Grandma]


every time i settle at your feet
with a bowl of coconut oil in hand
swirled and warmed
for exactly fifteen seconds
in the microwave
i feel generations

the hands of each and every one of them
must have also moved like yours
working through knots of
carelessness and exhaustion

the wrinkles on your fingers
must have been passed down
through hidden battles
i will never know of

and this massage routine
must have grown in perfection
through centuries of
Ammis and Nanis and Dadis

when you neatly fold my hair
into your signature braid
something tells me
these words have been said before

when will you start taking care of yourself?” i answer by asking you the same.

[Read Related: Understanding my Mother by Becoming a Mother Myself]

Almost three years later, and here we are, proud to present a piece that converges at the crossroads of who we are: children of immigrants, women in STEM, Muslim. From the scents of a bustling street market in India to the warmth of stories rooted in Venezuela, the poetry in this book features an ache for grounds no longer walked upon. Our Ancestors Did Not Breathe This Air is a bold and unfiltered collection recounting moments, tears, and dreams that have been generations in the making.

Grab your copy of Our Ancestors Did Not Breathe This Air from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

[Read Related: I Miss my ma, Especially now That COVID-19 Separates Us]

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By Afeefah Khazi-Syed

Afeefah Khazi-Syed was born and raised in the DFW metroplex but has always called two places home: the suburbs of … Read more ›