I’ve been thinking about home, in all its different forms.
Home can represent the heart of memory. And memory in turn provides meaning to our experiences. It is a significant part of our identity: the why of who we are. Dulled by our tendency to move on from the more painful ones, or strengthened by our willingness to revisit those that provide fire for our existence, memory is never ever complete.
This is why memory is constantly revisited. Because of the question of why.
At Bonnie’s, the question of why, in our hope to understand, is explored in safe spaces, through the exploration of creative works or the sharing of stories. Always, there is a sense of community and acceptance of our unique and authentic individual identities, where we feel comfortable in own presence.
Home and those items that made ours, uniquely ours.
Home to me, in my birth country of Malaysia, is where I think of the sewing machine: the creations that emerged from my grandmother’s hands after spending long, quiet hours by its side. Once she fell unwell, the sewing machine became a lonely presence in the house. This memory of the sewing machine in our home is often associated with sadness, grief and many unanswered questions.
But there are also positive emotions. Because the sewing machine reminds me of my cousin giggling while showing off his drawings of women in gowns. There is the vision of the aqueous light in this room, cast by the afternoon glow of the green curtains. Feeling as if we were underwater, where all was peaceful and serene, I remember the many sequins my cousin used in the making of his creations, the netted underlayers, the frills, the multicoloured accessories. The sewing machine was his happy place, somewhere he knew to go when the real world seemed too hard.
Home, history, country and place.
Home, country and place brings with it the memory of stories told. Of our grandmothers rubbing charcoal on their teeth to avoid the soldiers. And the vision of my schoolmates arriving in class with scars all over their arms. As children, no one would have truly considered what could have been going on at home, even if some of us may have sensed there was something more sinister involved.
Driving over the hills with the police vans rushing past into the jungle beyond. The thunderous clouds above and their own memories of the world they saw below so out of reach. The vision of my uncle’s shadow behind bars. His world and ours, separated by a thick slab of glass, muffling our voices as we spoke into the handsets.
These are some of the memories that come to mind when I think of home. For so long I had found it difficult to understand why these came to be. Only recently have I slowly, though not completely embraced them as who I am. Because memory or identity can never be erased no matter how hard we try. They belong to us like fingerprints—the one meeting place we to go to when we don’t know where else to go.
Working in this sector can be painful when confronted with material that connects with my own memory of those I’ve known—some who didn’t always get the help they desperately needed. Some of these stories are tragic and there is no happy ending. This means my song of memory isn’t always one that is positive.
At Bonnie’s, I am glad to hear of many happy stories, full of joy and growth and opportunity after all the pain and suffering that made our clients reach out to us in the first place. These stories are uplifting and inspiring, thanks to our wonderful family workers and facilitators that have gone out of their way to make this happen.
There are some things you just can’t change related to memory, and as always, revisiting these visions of the past, either through storytelling or the process of making creative works, can be a journey of discovery. It is a difficult one that is confronting at times, but well worth it, if only because knowing ourselves makes us stronger, more fulfilled, and far better versions of the people we once knew ourselves to be.
Written by Amanda T
Images via Canva