Until my mother died, I tried to get her to claim/love me. When I was twenty, she’d made it clear that no one in Chicago where she lived knew that she had a daughter, and I was not to call her mother—thus the title of my memoir. I loved my mother despite her rejections when I visited her in Chicago over the years. I was convinced that one day she’d say, “Oh, I’ve been so wrong. I love you and I’m proud you are my daughter.”Read More →

  It’s an old story really, the girl who’s missing a father. Either he’s dead, or drunk, or doesn’t care. Or perhaps the parents are divorced and he’s gone or banished. Perhaps he’s an angry man, or neglectful. Hopefully he’s not mean or violent. Hopefully his hands don’t stray to his daughter, but it’s an old story. Another old, and much happier, story is the father who IS there. He protects his family, teaches and guides. He looks into the eyes of his children and sees through to their souls. He joyfully, most of the time, shares what he knows about life, and interprets andRead More →

The day in 4th grade begins as usual: the pledge of allegiance, the Lord’s Prayer, a round of spelling. Melodious music wafts into the room. Then a tall, willowy man enters, bright red hair tumbling over his forehead, a violin tucked under his chin. He dips and sways, his enchanting sounds making us stop what we are doing. His violin sings melodies from heaven. We leave our seats to gather around him and drink in the enchantment. He plays and dances and charms us like a leprechaun. He kneels, grinning, his blue eyes shining. He rips through a toe-tapping “Turkey in the Straw,” then anRead More →

I look at this photo of my mother, age 30, as I lay somewhat untethered in her lap. It’s before everything happens, before my father leaves her, before she leaves me. It’s the beginning of our story. There we are, innocent of the future, and unknown to both of us, we are part of a pattern that will continue. When I’m four, she will leave me with her mother. My mother was left behind too, and this legacy will haunt us to the end of their lives. One word. It’s just a word: “mother,” but it’s never a neutral word—it’s always imbued with emotional meaning.Read More →

    The train bisects the blue and the green, parting wheat fields by the tracks. Mommy and I rub shoulders, sitting in the last car, watching the landscape move backward, as if erasing my childhood, all those times when she would board the train and leave me aching for her. Now, in my dream, we rub shoulders, her perfume lingering. The old longing wrenches my stomach. Click-clack, click-clack, the train’s wheels on the track, the language of my past, my future. Her face is soft. Her wine-dark eyes glance at me with promise, an endearing look that gives me all I ever wanted. TheRead More →

        Forgiveness means letting go of the past.                                                                                                                 –Gerald Jampolsky For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in healing. As I grew up, I learned that I was the third daughter in my multi-generational family to be abandoned by a mother, and I was desperate to break a pattern that I’d seen cause much misery and pain. I’d watched my own mother and grandmother fight since was little; when I was an adult, my mother refused to let anyone know she had a daughter.  The pain of these realizations haunted me, but I found relief through creativity; playingRead More →

The Three Stages of Memoir Writing Through teaching memoir writing over two decades, and from writing my own books, I have found that there are several stages that writers go through as they write their memoir. I have broken these down into three stages, and each of them has their own challenges and skillsets. Each stage has subsets, side roads, and tangled skeins that you can easily get lost in if you don’t have a roadmap. We’ll examine psychological barriers, sources of inspiration, forks in the road, and what to look out for—all with an eye on getting you to “The End.” The three stagesRead More →

To write a memoir is to embark on a long journey of the imagination and of memory. My path of gathering memories, images, and stories was first through autobiographical art–painting, collage, etching, and mixed media. But I knew that words were necessary as well, and began to capture moments through poetry. From time to time, I’ll post some of the poems that eventually led me to my memoir Don’t Call Me Mother, that were part of the process for finding the story. Photographs and art work can show what words can’t. My great-grandmother Blanche was a powerful figure for me–in her eighties, she taught meRead More →