Here Cecil is, with her mother, me and my dear little mum, on one of our get togethers with each other, when I was somewhat smaller than I am now!
Last week I went to visit and help her celebrate her 87th birthday. She is getting old, her short term memory is gone, as I've mentioned before, and life is often difficult for her, despite having a very fine carer called Phyl, who comes in daily during the week to help out with the practical and to bring some fun, stimulation and interest into her life.
What do you give someone who is 87, who has all the things about her that she needs, and whose life is closing in? Well, Cecil has always been a very fine needlewoman. She and my beloved Ganna inspired my to stitch in my youth and she has always taken a great interest in what I've made over the years. Her house is decorated with a number of lovely bits of embroidery done by her with delicate and varied stitches, beautifully executed. She made me dresses as a child, and also clothed my doll, Amanda Jane, including this rather fine rose pink outfit with matching hat!
Well, Phyl, during one of the many "sortings out" that happen from time to time, came across a piece of embroidery that Cecil did when she was 23. It was done as part of a course she went on - sadly she can't remember quite what the course was, but they had evidently been tasked with some autobiographical stitching. So she created Cecil's Saga, a beautifully worked piece of stitchery which includes little vignettes of her life - or rather what small part of she'd lived up until then. I brought this home with me some months ago, delighted that it had been found and thought, "now, what can I do with this lovely cloth"?
As her birthday approached, realisation dawned. Of course; the obvious answer! What gives pleasure to those whose present is dimming? Thoughts of the past, that "other country" which comes and goes in our minds and has, in part, made us who we are. So, knowing of a rather good picture framers in Hastings who have done lovely work for me before, I took it along to consult. Of course they could frame it, what frame would I like? what mount? what size? I left it with them, in pleased anticipation, and when we collected it I was really delighted with the result. The framing was lovely and the mount really sets off the muted colours of the cloth it is stitched on. I brought it to her home wrapped in the Tie Dye quilt which both protected it and was taken to show and amuse in it's currently unfinished state. The cloth was carefully raised, like a stage curtain at the beginning of the play until, voila, the whole could be seen and the spreading smile and exclamations of surprise from her were just marvelous. The gift had worked, she was thrilled, here she is, holding it proudly, with one of her finest knowing smiles!
And, here, since it is rather large, are some of the details so you can appreciate their character and whimsy
Commemorating the Battle of Hastings. Hastings had been home before the war as her grandmother (Nanya to me), and three daughters had moved there from Ireland in 1921 after Sinn Feiners, pistols at the ready, creeping though the house in the night, made staying in Arklow less than attractive.
A delightful little group with their bicycle - Cecil couldn't remember their significance
The picture, as you can see, is rather large, and I was a bit worried as to where it might fit in her very small cottage. However, we found the perfect spot here
It is just inside her sitting room door, ready to greet her each morning as she gets up and takes her cup of tea there to sit and read the paper. I'm sure she and Phyl will spend time looking at it, talking about what each image represents, visiting the past and happy times. If you look just past her head, you'll catch a glimpse of the other gift I brought with me - an angel sun catcher with the word PEACE dangling below in rainbow colours, to hang on her conservatory door. I felt it was a good thought with which to start the day.
So thank you Phyl, for finding this gem and bringing it to my attention; thank you Empress Art of Hastings for giving it such a lovely frame, and thank you Cecil for always being the best Godmother and Aunt I could have wanted.