Today we hand over to the lovely Aunty Mary (you know the one of gateaux / gateau fame) for a guest post all about a very special project that after reading about Becksie is very keen to get involved in. Mary it’s over to you…………..
‘There was a package waiting for me on the mat when I got home from work today. I’ve always been one of those people that loved receiving post, but this was something extra special that I had been waiting for. Last week sometime, while I was idly browsing on the internet, I stumbled across something called ‘The Napkin Project’. It is led by an artist who had a residency at a care home and became interested in the way people with dementia interact with tactile objects such as napkins. The idea is that lots of people will embroider individual napkins which will be presented to the residents of the home for them to keep. The theme of the project is ‘Home’ and those taking part in embroidering a piece are also asked to fill in a little tag about what ‘home’ means to them, which will be returned along with the napkin to the artist.
As an ex-art student and someone who works with people with dementia, this was an idea that particularly appealed to me. The whole concept has really got me thinking, and as I sit with the blank canvas napkin in front of me, I try to decipher what ‘home’ means to me personally. Several years ago, after I had left art school and started my first real job, a set of circumstances dictated that I left Edinburgh where I had studied and returned to my home town of Birmingham. I felt lost. For six months I slept on a mattress on my sister’s floor and wandered around in a dressing gown feeling sorry for myself. At that point I made a decision; that I was going to own a house with an upstairs and a downstairs by the time I was 30. I didn’t know how I would do it, I didn’t have any money and I didn’t have someone to help me do it… I just knew I was going to make it happen. I bought my little house when I was 28 years old and it remains my home to this day. My friends Becksie and Ian came round for my first birthday in the house a year later, I made a cake.
That’s the thing about home. It’s not just bricks and mortar, wallpaper paste and gloss paint… it’s a feeling. It’s the privacy of your own bathroom, the comfort of your own bed, the taste of a cuppa in your favourite mug and the smell of your own fresh laundry drying on the rack. It doesn’t even really matter where home is, but you nest and you make it your own. I remember the unsettling feeling when my parents moved out of the house I grew up in and relocated to the country. It’s a funny thing, but when I visit them in their new cottage, there it is… home.
The devastating thing about dementia is that over time it robs us of our memories, our connections and our abilities. It can destroy our sense of self from the inside out. Who am I if I don’t remember your face or where I went to school or the first time we met? But not only that, dementia takes away our control so that sometimes we have to give up the most fundamental of things… our home. Maybe our families can’t manage or we are living on our own and we need too much help. I wonder, how my sense of home differs to that of a person living in a care home and I consider if there’s a way to reconcile the two. But, there’s a chance I might be over-thinking things, as usual.
I look at my napkin again and wonder what to embroider on it. It could be a pattern or a picture, it could have a deep meaning or be something fun. At art school we were always warned against being too precious, because if you think about it too much, you’ll never start. I decide to think of it as if I was making something for a friend, instead of a piece of art, I’ll just do my best. As I look around the living room I realise that all my plans, my hopes and dreams are imbedded within these walls. In the corner there is a pile of dressing making patterns and fabric, a shelf of fresh books waiting to be read. This is my home and this is where I shut the door to dampen out the day and build for the future.
So what will I embroider? I don’t know yet, but I will start any minute… just as soon as I’ve had a hot tea from my favourite cup…’