Di Riddell - Your Voice Matters

Di Riddell

Your Voice Matters - Confidence Beyond 50

What Do You Get A 90 Year Old For Her Birthday?

What was I going to do for my Mum for her 90th birthday?

After living away for many years, I returned to my home town where Mum was in a retirement village. She had had a hard life and for many years little joy and happiness.

I was about to remedy that.

For her 84th birthday, we planned a surprise party, she had never had a birthday party before. She was always the one giving out to others. Having little, Mum showed her love for everyone by cooking and caring for them.

I told her we were having my brother and his wife at home for a BBQ and yummy cake. She loooooved cake. In the background we had invited 50 family and friends and organised to have them arrive at staggered times. The joy on her face as she realised what was happening was my reward. Each person who arrived brought a bigger, wider smile to her face. It was the happiest day of her life.  As it turned out, it was the last time she and her brother and sister were together.

I did have a little concern that the excitement might be too much, however my misgivings faded away as I saw her delight. Her excitement went on for weeks.

Four years after that she fell, broke her hip and never walked again and was in a nursing home. Her days of coming and sitting on my deck were over, we could not get her in and out of the car nor manage her at my home.

So, what was I going to do?

Mum loved family so I decided to create a historical collage for her, have it framed and she could look at it every day and relive her memories. I was fairly new at patchwork and embroidery but I had a go. This is the result.

The background of calico is reminiscent of her life, bland, lasting, serviceable and good for many things.

The photos were transferred to the fabric with turps and the back of a spoon. There are much more sophisticated ways of doing that now… that was what was around then.  

The lace across the top is from my wedding veil from 1971

The top left photo is her parents wedding photo from 1908. How elegant and graceful it is to see the woman standing showing off her posture and her gown to perfection. The man sitting in a posture of grace.

The circle on the top right is part of her Dad’s silk handkerchief made into a suffolk puff with her Dad’s miners tag in the centre. He with his family had emigrated from Scotland in 1885 when he was 10 years of age. They settled in Tivoli near Ipswich and Andrew went into the mines to help support the family when he was 12 years of age.

The bottom left circle- The flags were on a handkerchief which was sent from France by my Grandmother’s brother to their mother during WW1.  The delicate fabric had deteriorated over the years. The lace surrounding flags is the original lace.

Centre bottom is Mum’s brother who was killed in action in New Guinea during the second world war.

The bottom right photo is my Mum with her brother, sister and Grandmother sitting

The other little bits were chosen to represent that period of time. The frame chosen to compliment the collage.

Will it win a prize in an exhibition? NO!

Did Mum love it? YES!

And it hung in her room in pride of place. She told everyone about it, shared details of her life and revelled in her memories. Was it a good choice? YES! It gave her immense pleasure.

This collage represents the power of the old photograph and a little bit of creativity stitched together with love for a woman I am proud to call my Mum. She passed away in 2001, I still miss her, her family were her life.