Saturday, October 29, 2011

In Memoriam...

Last weekend, I spent the day at Camp New Horizons with about 40 kiddos and young adults from ages 5-18. Camp New Horizons is a bereavement camp for children who've lost loved ones (usually a sibling) to cancer or a blood disorder. This particular camp, held at Camp Kinard in Batesburg-Leesville, was organized by some really wonderful people over at Palmetto Health Children's Hospital. You may recall a project I did there earlier this year, and every time I've interacted with anyone from the clinic, I'm blown away by how kind, generous and devoted everyone there is to the kids who need them. It really is a pleasure to work with these good people. I can't say enough about it.

My task was to teach an art project that might simultaneously help kids remember their loved one, but also speak of moving forward, and hopefully be fun to make. Brainstorming, I worried it could get too heavy, but not to worry-- kids will be kids! The tenor of the camp was warm, light-hearted, nurturing and...ENERGETIC! After all, these kids are getting to hang out with other kids who know exactly what they and their families have been through.Some of them have been coming to camp every year for years and they're reconnecting with old friends.

I've mentioned earlier in this blog that I do a lot of free association with my own work, so I did the same here when trying to come up with an interesting project. I kept coming back to the symbol of the egg. Of course, the egg is symbol of life, but I also kept thinking about the Chinese Century Eggs. It's a beautiful delicacy, though I can't say I'd ever really want to try one. I link to the Wikipedia page here if you're interested in learning more about how it's made, but essentially it's covered in layers of different ingredients (some which don't sound edible), left to age for a certain amount of time before all the layers are peeled away to reveal amazing color, sometimes some really beautiful snowflake patterns, and by some people's standards, a quite tasty treat.

Might seem slightly incongruous perhaps, but really, this is what I was thinking when I came up with this project for the kids to make their own memory eggs. I thought each child could record a favorite memory of their loved one on a slip of paper, roll it up, place it inside the egg and seal it up for a future time. Perhaps a time when they were older and could reflect on their lives, their family's, their loved one's-- and maybe remember with a sense of celebration the time they had together with that loved one lost. Viewing it from a vantage point of maturation (they are the century egg in a sense), noting that each of their experiences has made them who they are on that day. I hope, even though they might miss that person desperately and it might still hurt, they'll also read those happy memories and see that that person is still with them in a sense, and that that person had a hand in shaping who they themselves are. We're getting into deep introspection, the spiritual or the esoteric, but I do believe even though we may not feel like it all the time, we are lovely with our little and sometimes big scars, our secrets, our pains. And sometimes, though the moments are few and far between, sometimes you become aware and conscious of those things and you find appreciation for them.

Not that I expect everyone will consciously come to this sentiment, or that even most of these eggs will still be around on that far off day in the future (after all kids will be kids!) but this was my concept. And simply presented, the egg is life and we are celebrating a life by remembering someone we love. With that in mind, I think we were successful, and that's good enough for me!

For those of you interested in the project itself, I think it could presented outside the sphere of bereavement, as well. The eggs could contain  wishes or goals for the future, small keepsakes, etc. Originally, I was going to have the children seal the eggs by decoupaging pretty papers over them and I saw some wonderful examples of that here, but I felt it was a little too difficult for younger children when I sat down to make the project myself. Instead we used enamel acrylic paint (which is great for non-porous materials such as plastic and glass) to decorate our eggs. I found gift boxes we could decoupage with all of those pretty papers I'd found and some raffia for our "nests".

All in all, I think the project was success and looked great! And I was finally able to put to use those hundreds of plastic eggs left over from this project!