Jenna Caplette migrated from California to Montana in the early 1970s, first living on the Crow Indian reservation, then moving to Bozeman where she owned a downtown retail anchor for eighteen years. These days she owns Bozeman BodyTalk & Energetic Healthcare, hosts a monthly movie night, teaches and writes about many topics.
Writing our mothers can be about doing detective work on the women who birthed us. We discover unanswered questions that send us to her friends or our relatives, looking for pieces of story, of their experience of the women who are our mothers. I found that to be a simpler process right after my mother died because at that time, people didn’t second guess my motive in questioning them, though each had a line of personal discretion they would not cross.
Writing our mothers can be making a commitment to ask them questions while they are alive, recognizing that evasion is another kind of answer. There are several life-story writing books that suggest questions to use.
In my BodyTalk practice, I often work on women’s relationships with their mothers because those relationships affect their health, their ability to be fully present to themselves. The information that comes up in sessions can send clients to their mothers with very focused, tailored questions. I’m sure that’s also true for women working in other modalities, including counseling. Asking your mother those questions may or may not bring useful answers. Either way, journal your conversation and your reaction.
Any exploration of relationship is ultimately a dialogue we have with ourselves. We can only see through the lens of our own perception. Explore yours. What are your memories? What were the circumstances of your leaving home? How did you feel about your mother at that time? How do you feel about her now? How has your relationship with her changed? How is it the same? And, an essential question: how does it mirror her relationship with her own mother?
What are your happiest, funniest, saddest, memories of your mother? How are you like her? What are your main differences? What have you taught each other? Patterns of relationship are passed, generation to generation. If you’re a mother, which of those patterns are familiar in your own relationship with your children, especially your daughters?
Writing our mothers can be a chronicling of the mundane: their favorite colors, season, song, meal, movie, or book. Write a memory related to each of these. My mother loved bright colors. I see her particularly in a red embroidered blouse we bought in Guatemala. In fact, I still own it, though I’ve rarely been bold enough to wear it.
I don’t know what my mother would have named as her favorite meal. But I remember baking together. We had a production-line approach to making pies. My job was to prepare the perfect crust. My mother readied the fruit filling, using apples bought fresh from nearby orchards or fruits and berries from our garden. I loved to carve designs in the crust of the pies before we baked them, to nibble on unused shreds of pie dough. Pie dough is still a comfort food of mine.
In honor of mother’s day, begin writing about your mother. In the process, you may discover unanswered questions that you can ask now, while there is a possibility of having them answered. Or, you may find you can intuit the answer if you just allow yourself to write without editing what comes, filling a page, or setting a timer and staying with the question for ten minutes.
Mix your writings with favorite photographs. Make it a tradition to add to your writings every year around mother’s day, or your mother’s birthday, or a favorite holiday. Write and know her separately from your father. Separately from her role as a mother.
This is one of the richest explorations you can make. It is one you will revisit over and again in your life. If, as you journey and journal, appreciations come, consider making a written collage of those and present them as your Mother’s Day Gift -- to your mother and yourself.