Journaling with mom…

September 13, 2010 § 14 Comments

I signed up for a journaling class with Mom. First, you need to know that she’s a pioneer. A pioneer as in load-up-the-wagon,-we’re-moving-west.

Two years ago, at age 84, Mom packed up her upstate new york home and moved here to STL to be near us. What a relief to have her nearby. What  a revelation, as well. OK, there are all kinds of stories in the prior few sentences, but addressing the moment, this moment, I found myself tonight in the meeting room of a town library in a journaling class, seated next to Mom. We signed up together for it.

She was a little nervous, I could tell. She kept clicking her pen. I reached over to put my hand over hers as people came into the room and took seats at the various long tables. (Mom and I arrived early, along with three of her friends – yes, she has made friends here like crazy) and while this was a good idea, to arrive early and get the lay of the land, it gave Mom time to think about being in a writing class with her daughter who is a journalist.)

Anyway, she stopped clicking her pen, and put her other hand over mine.
“In tai chi, you put the left hand first, then the right hand over the left,” she told me solemnly. She takes tai chi class every Tuesday. She has been surprised at the power…in herself. Really? She is one of the strongest women I know. 

One man walked into the class. Some of the women cheered. This was to welcome him, I suppose. I thought he might turn around and walk out. He did not. He smiled and found a seat near the wall.

The class leader was a soft spoken librarian who spoke easily about journaling, how she perceived it, and soon enough had people volunteering to talk, sharing why they were there, what they thought journaling was, etc.
It was surprisingly very open.
I realized, too, that I need to get out more.

Why were we taking this class? the lead asked.
There were various responses.
I kept mine to myself. (I tend to do that in writing forums. I’m really quiet. No, really.)
However, I joined because I truly love to be with other writers or people who want to write. 
So I was happy.

And right off the bat,  I picked up two new points about journaling. (so already the class is worth it!)
OK, at one point, I answered a question, too,  because I”m a frequent journaler and people were curious about that.

And Mom spoke! She’s friends with the woman who leads the class and the lead called on Mom to talk about what she was hoping for in terms of journaling.
And out it popped. The floodgates opened.
Mom said that while growing up with her younger sister   they were both always made to worry about what other people thought or might think  (because of their parents high visibility (via jobs & politics) in the community? Because it was a small community?
and she mentioned, too, that she and her  sister were kept at  a distance.  Really? Our family was so warm and loving, I thought.  Maybe not  true of my maternal grandparents. 

Mom wants to journal her way through examining her growing up years and experiences in the NY metropolitan area. I sense she has some tales to tell, some memories to share, centered around her and her sister who she loved dearly. They were always a pair, my Mom and my aunt (who died over a decade ago of breast cancer).
Mom also wants to journal her way to getting organized. She feels fragmented in her writing.
What? her writing?
She has poems in one pile, notes in another, thoughts and prayers in another, she said. Again, I say (only to myself:  “Really?”)
I didn’t know about the poems, the prayers, the scribbled thoughts. I only thought she had piles of addresses and clippings and such.
There’s plenty I don’t know. 

Apparently there will be some out-loud sharing going on in the next classes (over the next two months.) Some people will share; some people won’t.
I likely won’t.

I hope Mom will.
I hope she’ll at least share with me. 
This is going to be one cool journey.


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§ 14 Responses to Journaling with mom…

  • shoreacres says:

    How absolutely wonderful for you – and for your Mom. Best of all is that you can share your experience – both the journaling process and the “product” itself.

    They do have hidden lives, don’t they – these mothers of ours? I’ve heard one or two stories in the past year that have lain hidden for decades and astonished me in the telling. There’s no telling what you’ll hear – or say!

  • mandy says:

    What a neat experience to take this class with your mom and learn things about her you might otherwise never know. My grandmother and I have very little in common and our relationship is contetious at times, but every once in a while she opens up and there is a glimpse of her previous life, before she was a mom and grandma.

  • Bella Rum says:

    My husband and I lived with my 93-year-old Dad for three years following his short extended care facility experience. His stories were my reward. Enjoy.

  • typehype says:

    What a lovely post and what a lovely way to get to know your mom even better. How inspiring she is!

  • Care says:

    OH! so wonderful! Your mom sounds lovely and I hope you cherish the discoveries you will share in this class. (*sniff*)

  • ds says:

    So wonderful for you both. I am impressed that at 84 your mom is a student of tai chi–says a lot about her, and about you!
    Hope you both have great fun in that class!

  • Bone Daddy says:

    My mom, a saintly Italian-American woman with piercing dark brown eyes who never drove a car or was on an airplane always told me of Mr. Sussman, the Metropolitan Life Insurance man whose whistling rendition of “Aint She Sweet?” echoeing in the side walkway to our Brooklyn NY home announced his arrival to collect the week’s policy premium (paid in quarters and dimes). My mom said Mr. Sussman was her 2nd choice of husband! Moral to all men: try as we might, we can never possess 100% of our woman’s psyche. Let it go, they are deep oceans each. Rave over….

  • Nora says:

    And again further proof as to why I’m jealous that I couldn’t sign up for this! Next time I will though, k!?

  • jeanie says:

    This will be an experience you will never forget. Ever. I suspect you and your mom will both discover new things about each other. I think you already have. And about her upbringing.I only wish I could have done this with my mom.

    She sounds like quite a woman. How wonderful that in her older years she is sharp enough to have the experiences she is enjoying!

  • oh says:

    Shore – You are so right! I had no idea about some of Mom’s stories (or, tales? her father, my grandfather was an amazing storyteller with tales of the northwoods where he grew up…! ) Treasure troves of all kinds of info, our moms!

    Mandy – Pretty cool when your grandma DOES open up, right? So many generational differences…I believe that’s what keeps them from sharing some things sometimes. Maybe a journal for Grandma at Christmas?

    Bella – what a lovely thing to say, about the stories you heard, being a reward. How true. How poignant. How important for us to hear the stories, and tell them, too.

    Dear Typehype – I can’t imagine how the class will go. I don’t know if we will write in class? or if people really will share? I bet my mom will share what she writes, though. That, coupled with some of the family pictures she has kept and taken over the years will be quite the combo.
    And don’t forget how we so enjoyed hearing about your family.

    Care – I am already enjoying this “class” – mom and i have calling each other about things to write. Will see how it goes – ! (maybe she’ll let me share some stuff here, too.)

    DS – Thanks, DS. ANd about that tai chi…honestly, I never would have guessed Mom would go for that! I should give it a try. Probably better in terms of exercising and de-toxing than walking the dog…or, not. But it fascinates.

    Bonedaddy! Very cool story about your mom. A revelation of sorts. And your reaction, even more so. Ah, yes, the deep oceans that we all are!

    Jeanie – thank you for your lovely words. and honestly, mom does stuff I haven’t tried yet! I did ask her if she could teach me to knit socks, like the ones you’re making! I LOVE those multi-color socks and they’re nothing like “store bought.”

  • Jeannine says:

    You are lucky oh, three generations of women, all close and inspired and inspiring. What a great life you have!
    I love Bonedaddy’s story, it’s just so visual and alive. I can see his Mom, patting her hair, as she opens the door to the whistling guy!

  • litlove says:

    What a great post and clearly a wonderful experience. I’m hoping you’ll tell us more in weeks to come about what you’ve learned, both about your own journalling and about your mother. It should be fascinating!

  • Becca says:

    What a marvelous undertaking for both of you. My mother has been telling me more stories of late, especially since my aunt passed away last year. I think she wants to make sure I know all there is to know.


  • Oh wow. What a great story. I could just see you in that library with those thought balloons over your head going, What?!
    What an amazing opportunity. You are a very smart woman to be doing this. My mom died so long ago and it makes me wonder if we could have reached a time like what you’re describing. Relish this. It’s a gift for you both. I can’t wait to hear more.
    Thanks for sharing.

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