Saturday, 1 August 2009

distortion of memory

This is a tryout for a larger piece that has not yet been made. It arose from a discovery that

I made about 18 months ago which was for a short time very painful and in the long-term more thought-provoking than anything. My parents were married in February 1946; my father was one of the last GIs to enlist and as a result on of the last to return to the US. I knew my parents divorced when I was little but only recently discovered than I was around two at the time: I thought I remembered my father before he went back to the US - two specific memories, one of someone in uniform giving me a toddler-type tricycle, another of someone in uniform kissing my mum goodbye at the station.

Last year the war-brides passenger lists were published and I discovered that my mother was due to travel at a time when I hadn't yet been born, when I was just a ten-week embryo. This meant (given that there was a gap between his return to the US and my mother's allocated voyage) that I had been sort of a parting gift from my father. My mother had cold feet about travelling so far (I think she may have harboured fantasies that if she held out long enough he would return to this country) and missed the two alternative voyage allocations which were for the following two months.

My mother died some time ago, and I have had no contact with my father: he is still alive (in his eighties now) and I did write but for whatever reason received no reply. So there is now no way of knowing what happened. I know my grandmother had been ill at the time my mother was due to travel. The fact she would just have discovered she was pregnant I'm sure was also a factor; at the time, too, stories were coming back of women discovering their husbands lived in remote backwaters with few facilities (in fact most GI brides were infinitely better off than they would have been in this country, but as always the newspapers reported only the worst cases.
At first I was angry with my mum, but on reflection realised she had not misled me - I had misled myself if anything. I assume the man in uniform was my uncle as I know from her that he had been involved in buying the tricycle and the distortion of memory did the rest. The angry child had her day but then became a rational adult again! At the time they were both in their early 20s, on their own away from home and the close-knit communities they had grown up in and that helped it become easy to understand how things happened and move on.
The quilt above is about the distorted memories - the faces kissing and parting, the war-babies born; the transparent fabrics (synthetic organzas) represent the way memories shift, change, and are sometimes difficult to grab hold of.
Sorry about the long post - this is the first time I have made something as personal as this!