Interview 1: Elizabeth

aged - 86

"Immediately we enter Elizabeth’s apartment (in Danny’s main building) she shows me a tiny baby’s muslin cap worn by he son Peter at Great Ormond Street hospital (where he was born), a poem, two associated images and a photo album of recent images of her son Peter (who’s now aged 54). She’s asked me to keep the details of this conversation private except, that is, that she's requested I share the poem, in case it might be of support for others. It reads as follows:

Heaven's very special child

A meeting was held quite far from earth

"It's time again for another birth,"

Said the angels to the Lord above.

"This special child will need much love."

His progress may seem very slow.

Accomplishments he may not show.

And he'll require extra care.

From the folks he meets down there.

He may not run or laugh or play;

His thoughts may seem quite far away.

In many ways he won't adapt.

And he'll be known as handicapped.

So let's be careful where he's sent.

We want his life to be content.

Please, Lord, find parents who

Will do this special job for you.

 

They will not realise right away

The leading role they're asked to play

But with this child sent from above

Comes stronger faith and richer love.

And soon they'll know the privilege given

in caring for this gift from heaven.

Their precious charge so meek and mild

In heaven's very special child.

Both the visuals and the conversation begin inspiring my visual imagination immediately and will all feed into my work. She also shows me a beautiful pink bonnet which she herself wore as a small child. I ask if she has a photo of herself in it and she tells me that though she can see in her minds-eye just such a photo but she doesn’t have it anymore. “I was about 3 and feeding chickens whilst wearing it,” she tells me.

As we talk more about clothes I found out that (coincidentally) Liz had really wanted to work in fashion and had been offered an unpaid opportunity in the field, but her family hadn’t been able to mange it financially so life had taken another turn. These days she’s a student of art herself (despite having arthritis in her hands).

One of the repeat attendees, at my second introductory talk Elizabeth gives me the pink bonnet she'd mentioned, to keep (and therefore to work from directly). She’s already given me Peter’s baby muslin cap. “My two sons won’t necessarily have use of them,” she tells me. She’d also done a drawing which she likewise gives me. It's of the image in the photo she remembers, of herself feeding chickens whilst wearing the pink and white bonnet (see below). I feel very honored".

- Stephanie Smart