Guest Bloggers

Guest Blogger Lynn Henriksen asks, “Who is this woman you call Mother?”

Guest Blogger Lynn Henriksen invites you on a journey.

Who is she, really—this woman you call Mother? What could be more important than looking at your mother as an individual unto herself? Come along with me on a journey into the heart of the Mother Memoir to write a true and telling tale by answering this question:

“If you could tell just one small story that would capture your mother’s character and keep her spirit alive for years to come, what would it be?”

Moving your ego aside and searching purposefully for your mother’s intrinsic character can take some time to put into practice, but it is so worth your energy to discover valuable insights. Do you know what makes (made) her tick? What buoyed or drowned her hopes and dreams? What inspired her joy, tugged at her heartstrings, or thrilled her to the depths of her soul? What enlivened her spirit or dashed it to smithereens?

As The Story Woman, I’m here to encourage you to find the answers to these questions and create a stirring bio-vignette. My mother died several years ago, but afterwards I wrote my short memoir honoring her, and I believe she felt it. I know my family appreciated it; it provided them a glimpse into her spirit that only I could pass on from my vantage point—one that could never be portrayed in mere photographs.

It could be that you don’t even like your mother. Ouch! Perhaps, on the other hand, she’s so special to you, you’re so close to her, that you can’t bring yourself to see her as someone distinct in her own right—someone separate from you. Maybe you don’t want to look…too scary, too sad, too poignant, too intimate. As I see it, these are all valid reasons why it is essential for you to write a true story about Mother—one that embraces a special kind of memoir that peers into the heart and soul of your very first relationship.

The beauty in writing the Mother Memoir is about honoring this most basic relationship. Whether your connection with your mom was good or bad, filled with light and happiness, or misery and regret, it is an avenue toward better understanding in all its forms. Through the process of writing your telling tale, a multitude of feelings and emotions are to sure surface. Be prepared for tears and laughter, while experiencing joy, sadness, anger, thanksgiving, angst, relief, or forgiveness and appreciate this process as a path toward healing and/or a forum for celebration. With an open heart, give thanks for the wisdom you will come to realize as the journey unfolds, since history lives within us despite the passage of time.

Although her character is multifaceted and her inner make up complex, you’ll look for certain aspects of her personality that stand out and echo her distinct qualities. Begin by locating that one memory or cluster of events that in the telling would impart a genuine impression of the character and spirit of your mother as seen through your eyes. What aspect of her being, what specific quality, action, or anecdote can you draw upon to bring the essence of her character to light in a short memoir? You won’t trace her history in this bio-vignette or look for earth-shaking events as a basis for your story. It’s the real-life, day-to-day occurrences that connect us and often bring us to our knees.

Once you have found the memory you want to shape into memoir, take a good, long reflective break from the well-formed picture you have formulated about your mother as it relates to this happening or string of events. Let go your assumptions—all of them—as you look for truth and honesty and discover buried under layers of façade the reasons why she acted or reacted as she did. You may be surprised by what you see and how you feel. You may experience an awakening or a shift in perception after distancing yourself from the event and applying maturity mixed with the willingness to look at your mother as an individual in her own right, from the inside out.

Although the idea of writing a memoir can be overwhelming, remembering Mom through writing your Mother Memoir is doable. It calls for memories to be energetically crafted into words to make her spirit come alive in just a few pages creating a short, true story that has the power to reveal her essential spirit. You will come to understand its impact as you move through this process and join the ranks of TellTale Souls.

Henriksen photoLynn Cook Henriksen, The Story Woman™, is the founder of “TellTale Souls,” an enterprise promoting writing memoir creatively through workshops, classes, speaking presentations, and her award-winning guidebook, TellTale Souls Writing the Mother Memoir: How to Tap Memory and Write Your Story Capturing Character & Spirit.  As an intuitive leader, Lynn discovered a profound way to keep spirits alive after witnessing Alzheimer’s disease ravage her mother’s mind. As an author, teacher, and entrepreneur, she has helped hundreds of people from 9 to 90 capture the memories and feelings they never thought they could record.  Lynn is a member of California Writers Club, Marin and past president of the Women’s National Book Association, San Francisco.

Lynn will be the April 17 Writers Forum Presenter in Petaluma, California..

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3 comments

  1. Kathy Myers

    Lynn’s suggestion to write a “mom memoir” reminds me of a pivotal moment in my writing life.
    The plays at the Junior College always have themed lobby decorations and displays. Our director suggested the cast post a photo and a brief blurb about the “Steel Magnolias” in our lives. My first thought was of my mother, who died twelve years earlier, but still attended my performances in my imaginary audience. I wrote a brief vignette that I thought captured her essence;
    Juanita McNinch
    I will never forget that evening…
    My mother moved about the room graciously greeting her guests with welcoming hugs of warm appreciation that they had come. She occasionally checked the buffet table and made sure the shrimp dip bowl was never empty. She spotted a young couple standing awkwardly on the periphery of the group. He had been the kid next door many years ago. His wife was wearing a shift that showed off her protruding round belly.
    “So when are you due dear?” mother asked.
    The young woman flustered and blushed. “I’m not pregnant. I guess I’m just fat.”
    Without missing a beat, and without averting her gaze from the woman’s eyes, mom leaned in and said as if it was the God’s honest truth, “Don’t be ridiculous. I thought I recall your mom mentioning it in her last letter. I must be confused. Have you tried my shrimp dip?”
    My mother had grace under fire; even that evening; the gathering after my father’s funeral. Her steely spirit continues to inspire me— tonight and always.

    Some of the other cast members were moved by my piece, and requested I help them honor their own magnolias. I was encouraged by their feedback, so I signed up for a creative writing course the following fall. Now I’m glad that I have the ability to write, a good sense of humor and can whip up a pretty mean shrimp dip— all abilities I inherited from mom. She would be so proud.

    1. Lynn Henriksen

      Loved your story, Kathy, capturing your mother’s steely spirit concisely and beautifully. I was immediately moved by your introductory words, “My first thought was of my mother, who died twelve years earlier, but still attended my performances in my imaginary audience.” You hooked me. Your Mother Memoir brought her character and spirit to light in a very meaningful way through just one story—exactly what it was meant to do.

      From here on out, I’m sure the very thought of shrimp dip will bring a smile to my lips, as I await a wink from Juanita McNinch.

      I’m always looking for good stories for TellTale Souls’ “volume two” (not sure how long that may take me to get it done). Also, if you’d like, I’d like to post this story on my blog. My email: lynn(at)telltalesouls.com.

      Keeping Spirits Alive,
      Lynn

  2. mcullen Post author

    I love the idea of the “steel magnolia” in one’s life. Makes me wonder, if we don’t have a strong personality influencing us, do we become a Steel Magnolia for others?

    I have been in the narrator’s situation, mistaken a plump woman as being pregnant. If I forget my mantra to never ask unless assured there is a pregnancy, I hope I remember to say, “Don’t be silly. I’m sure your mother told me you are. Shrimp dip?”

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