Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Finding New Memories

My grandmother pictured with a cigarette and with her friends,she's the one with s'one falling off her back!

My work as an Artist and as a Writer is about memory and identity. I explore how we use memory to both create our sense of self and to define our relationships to people and ideas and to time frames. I explore this using myself and my family members as subject matter and I am particularly interested in the way that memory is fractured and ever changing. Memories are recalled and triggered by a variety of complex factors, deaths, births, anniversaries, events or quite simply by scent or sensation, letters or by the classic, the photograph. I have been working with these same ideas for many, many years now and I still feel there is so much more to learn and talk about on the subject. 

Looking through family albums of photographs is a typical starting point for any work that I create be it visual or language based. I archived photographs that my maternal grandmother passed on to me some years back. When cataracts had made her vision blurry and limited and she no longer flicked through their pages, she handed me old albums of photographs of her life. Holidays with friends before she had my mother, photographs of my mother as a baby and her growing up, photographs of my parents wedding and the early baby photos of my siblings and I and photos that we sent when we were far away from her and some of strangers, people unknown to me that were a part of her life. She knew how precious these documents, these memories, this evidence was to me and she knew that I would forever cherish them like they were children of my own. 

I often write about my grandmother. She continues to be a huge influence in my life despite her passing away seventeen years ago. It regularly warms my heart to think that she remained in her own home with the comfort and familiarity of her hard earned possessions and her self created safe haven until the day that she peacefully took her last breath, with my mother by her side. These different memories of her as somewhat fragile, old and ever so, ever so slightly defeated are new to me. They surfaced this week-end as hubby and the boys and I joined my mother in a walk around a park a few minutes from the house where my grandmother lived and died. My mother and I reminisced and exchanged happy memories of my grandmother but then I remembered the walks in the same park with her in a wheelchair with a blanket over her knees and it saddened me. It shouldn't sadden me because she wasn't sad and neither was I in that moment and yet some memories you don't want to find. Somehow I felt cross with this picture of my granny as an old lady, she had never felt like an old lady to me. Not really. She was ninety years old when she died and in the visits that I made to her in that last year of her life, when she would share with me subtle yet vulnerable feelings about her memory betraying her or about her time being up, I would tease her and make her laugh by saying outrageous things, things that she thought were outrageous anyway and her mood would immediately lift. I can hear her laugh even now and even when she seemed weaker than she had ever been before, she was still able to be herself, to be the active and independent woman she had always been and always had to be. She was still my granny, she was still my magic tonic. The same magic tonic that I believe cushioned and held my grief when I lost my father as a girl, the tonic that without words managed to soothe a deep loss and managed to make my world still feel filled with light.  She was pure magic. 

She was the first person I thought of on March 8th, International Women's Day. It seemed perfectly fitting that I should find myself walking around the park by granny's former home, talking about how her life has shaped mine, with my mother alongside, the second person that I thought of on International Women's Day. My maternal grandmother and my mother, powerful forces, powerful examples for which I am so very grateful. Their stories and voices, their courage and their education have served me well and will continue to do so forevermore. I am never more proud than when I hear my children utter the words of stories and memories passed down from these great women and I am prouder still when those boys of mine claim these words and memories as theirs, words and memories steeped in the heritage and identity of these women that raised them and will raise them I hope, forevermore.

#AllAboutYou Link & Pin Party Mama and More


  1. A lovely post. My grandmother was such an inspiration to me and I haver a little smile. international Women's Day. You're right, it's those threads of history that help keep us strong. #allaboutyou

    1. Absolutely Victoria, the threads that once bound together make everything stronger! Here's to grandmothers everywhere and their smiles! Thanks so much for stopping by x

  2. Oh wow, you've raised the hairs on my arms, I connect so much to the magic tonic you talk of, with my own grandmothers (I lost my Dad's Mum aged 97-strong until the end, recently) and I found comfort and real joy in your words, in the shared strength, love and inspiration these fine women passed onto us and like you, I'm so proud they live on through my family and I.

    I actually directed a short film Broken (did well on the festival circuit, was screened on TV here and abroad) about my mother's story as an immigrant in the 60's to the UK, keeping my Grandparents names/characters mostly intact.

    It was quite something to watch the film with my own Grandmother and see her response, I shall never forget how real it felt for her and will remain a family archive forever. Thanks for this truly touching post.

    1. Vicki, thank you so much for your amazing comment! I absolutely love the narrative you are exploring in your films and what an incredible accomplishment both personally and professionally to have got them made and out there in the world!

      I got goosebumps too when I watched your trailer for 'Broken'! I would love to get hold of 'Rifts' and 'Broken'. My heart almost burst when you described watching your film with your grandmother, what a beautiful feat! I could go on forever and a day, I'm all ears to hear more about your amazing work, your wonderful story!

  3. Yes, it's so good to recall and remember the women who went before us as we pick up the mantle for the generations to come #AllAboutYou

  4. Totally relate to these thoughts and feelings Katy, there is a reason I think that with age memories edit out some realities - I try to banish my memories of my grandmother when she transitioned mentally and physically into someone who was so different to the strong, feisty, adventurous woman who lit a fire in my heart. I try to remember her before age took her from us well before she died, and now telling stories of her life to my children we continue the oral tradition of family lore. Long may it continue. Xxx