Gifts of an Infant

Delta Winds cover 2010Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


Gifts to an Infant

Kaneez Sayeed

Wrapped in a rectangle of soft cotton are two small hoops of chiseled gold. Simple and plain, they would be dismissed as only two pieces of old gold. However, I know the great significance of these earrings. The small hoops were a gift to me from my mother. As I see them gleam in the light, I remember that my mother had a goldsmith make them especially for me. The small hoops are a child's version of the large circles that hang from my mother's ears.

Every grandmother or mother in my ancestral village gives a female infant a pair of earrings made of either silver or gold. My mother and grandmother decided to mark my sixth month of life by having my ears pierced. In my village, the barber's wife pierced the ears of every infant girl, so my grandmother sent a request for her services. Fortunately, the barber's wife had the ability to pierce ears without complications. From my mother's stories, I know that I screamed as my earlobes were split in the center by a tiny incision. My mother held me tightly to prevent my wriggling from interfering with or damaging my earlobe as the needle was separating my flesh. After the piercing, the barber's wife inserted a loop of thick black yarn through my earlobes. For the next few days, my mother checked my ears for infections. Her mother had done the same for her when she had been an infant, and the cycle had been repeated for generations. My grandmother knew when my ears were ready for real earrings, so she decided a few weeks after the piercing to tell my mother to pay the goldsmith to make a pair of earrings for me.

My mother paid a village goldsmith to make earrings for me. In Barazai, my familial village, goldsmiths make gold trinkets, including rings, necklaces, bracelets. Jewelry designs are sent to patrons for their approval. After my mother chose the style of earrings she wanted, the goldsmith began his work. He melted the small amount of gold and selected the proper mold to pour it into and then chiseled and shaped the gold into a simple hoop with a hooked closing. It has been twenty-four years since my earrings were made. Although the goldsmith may not know it, he has a connection to my life through the earrings he made for me all those years ago.

I wore the earrings as a toddler and a young child. At two years of age, I emigrated with my family to the United States. I was wearing the earrings as I left my grandmother, my familial village, my ancestral homeland of Pakistan. The earrings stayed in my earlobes as I adjusted to a different country and home. Three years after I arrived in the United States, I began kindergarten. My parents bought Western dresses for me to wear to school, but they did not remove the golden earrings. On my first day of school, I did not understand a word of English. However, when a little girl smiled at me and gestured to her ears and then to mine, I understood she admired my earrings. My mother and grandmother could not have predicted that the small golden hoops would offer me comfort on my frightening first day of school.

The golden earrings I received as an infant are too small to be worn now, and I have had a couple of pairs made since, but they do not replace the original set. Every time I open my jewelry box and look at my tiny gold earrings, wrapped in cotton for protection, I quickly remember my grandmother, who spent the last twenty-three years of her life in Pakistan separated from me. The circumstances through which the earrings were given to me inspire a longing in my heart to visit my ancestral country, which I have not seen in twenty-three years. My goal is to thank the goldsmith for contributing to the familial practices in the village and for continuing a beautiful craft as my golden earrings are not only a symbol of my family but a precious heirloom.