I don’t think many people INTEND to keep boxes and boxes of things that once belonged to their child who died, it’s just that we really don’t know what to do with them. They become “all we have left” of those kids and we just cannot part with whatever last little bit that we have.
But as the years have passed and I occasionally open a box here and there, I realize that the contents of those boxes are NOT what I have left of Rebecca. What is left of her now is really in my heart and in the hearts and memories of all those who loved her.
But still, I can’t seem to throw anything away. These were HER treasures and now I am the guardian. And thoughts whirl through my mind—what good are boxes of old clothes, shoes, dance costumes? Still no answers. But after about 13 years, I began to tackle some of the old clothing.
As a textile artist, I began to see more than old clothes. When I was finally able to look at t-shirts and jeans as pieces of fabric that I could transform into works of art (and memories), I was able to take the first step of removing some of the clothing from boxes.
First I had to photograph each piece. (I needed a record, in case I might forget.) Then I cut the large solid pieces of fabric from the fronts, backs and sleeves. Seeing the clothing as new art supplies gave me relief—letting go of the tears and keeping the memories.
It took more than a year to complete the project. I created an accordion “book” that contains 48 “pages” of fabric about 1.5” by 5.5” along with 24 photos of Rebecca that I scanned onto fabric and stitched to alternating pages. The t-shirt fabric is backed with denim jean fabric. I screenprinted a quote from Rebecca’s quote book on the denim as well as screen prints of her signature. It said, “Take my advice. Carve your name into everything you own. Make them remember you.” She was always signing her name on things—my new address book, new calendar, my note pads, trying out various styles of penmanship.
The accordion folds up into a box that I painted, and on the inside cover which I lined with denim, I embroidered a quote by W.S. Merwin:
“Your absence has gone throughout me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.”
Rebecca’a absence will always run through me, but so will her presence.
Now, what to do with the other dozen boxes?