I celebrated my 56th birthday last week.
My husband and I spent the day in Bristol shopping and meeting friends. I dropped off some artwork for an exhibition and collected a piece I had recently bought from a gallery. We finished the day dining at one of our favourite restaurants on the River Avon.
On that day I felt very connected to my mother Nell who died nearly 40 years ago at the age of 55. She was an accomplished seamstress. I started to learn dressmaking two years ago and wore a dress I made earlier this year.
Last year, when I turned 55, was a watershed.
I had lived much of my life, as many people whose parent has died too soon, with the subconscious fear that I will not live beyond her age of death.
In May I made a piece of artwork called ‘Handle with Care’ for a community arts project called the Craft of Caring. I got in touch with my 16 year old self who had much of the day to day responsibility for looking after my terminally ill mother. It was a difficult piece of work to make, but very liberating to find a place to ‘talk about’ many of the feelings and memories I’ve carried since that time. I am grateful that my artmaking gives me a place to process my experiences.
Now at 56, I am travelling into new territory. I feel at ease with myself and very focused on many creative projects. I don’t know if my mom is ‘somewhere up there’ looking out for me and aware of who I have become, or what her hopes and concerns were for me at the time that she died. I do know that last week on my birthday I felt that I am at the same time my mother’s daughter and separate from her, that I am the woman I am becoming.