Sometimes the people and things closest to us can be the least obvious when it comes to writing about them. And it's not only writing—as our parents age, it can be tricky even having a real conversation that's not about day-to-day needs and issues.
Where do we start when there's already so much on the table and so much at stake?
On the Topic of Mother's Day
While my mother, even after her death, is an ongoing presence in my life, I found I needed some help getting going in order to have something to say here. While racking my brain for a new Mother's Day idea, I stumbled upon a remarkable ideation site called Journal Buddies.
Designed by creator Jill Schoenberg for “parents, kids, teachers, and students," Journal Buddies provides thousands of creative writing prompts and story starters, sorted by age/grade, holidays, months....
As she explains, “Prompts encourage a writer to further explore a writing topic and to bring deeply stored ideas, memories, and thoughts about the topic to the surface—especially those that are very near and dear to our hearts."
“Moreover, writing prompts assist a writer on their creative journey of digging deeply into a topic from a perspective that they may not have considered previously."
To test Jill's theory, I proceeded to pick a favorite from her 53 Mother's Day items: 29. "What are the different names you called your mom as a kid and how have they changed?"
What's in a Name?
So, here goes: Recently, when asked to write a letter to my mother as part of a group exercise, I found myself beginning: “Dear Mommy / Mama / Hilda / Mom." Across a more than 50-year relationship, our names for each other had adapted.
- My earliest memories have Mommy attached; I can even see what it looked like when written in my five-year-old ALL CAPS printing. When I think of her as Mommy, she's tall and smiling, and in her early 30s. Her bright lipstick, I later learned, was something Revlon called “Love That Red," and, yes, they still make it.
- Mommy gave way fairly early to Mama, as I started to grow up and away. My Mama wrote me newsy letters at Girl Scout camp and tolerated my junior high dramas. She had a particular gift for knowing when to stay close and when to step away—most of the time.
- Hilda was my mother's first name, which she would gladly have traded in for her middle name, had it been spelled Leigh, rather than Lee. She complained that Hilda was always the upstairs maid or a sturdy hausfrau.
- Mom stayed around the longest. Somehow a shorter name worked better over longer distances—for both of us, as I often became Daph rather than Daphne. Once I headed to CT and NY, we helped keep the phone companies in business for years.
...which then reminds me of her call on the morning of 9/11, her wake-up calls when I worked overnights, the last time I spoke with her.... There's something to this prompting business.
Start Your Own Mother's Day Conversation
Jill believes, and I would agree, that our busy world and lives contribute to our needing a bit of help when it comes to writing (or to starting a conversation). For the already-busy mind, the right prompts offer “new and exciting writing ideas" that may not have surfaced otherwise.
On the topic of Mother's Day, Jill's list boasts 53 Mother's Day writing prompts, which also make great conversation starters. Why not try one of these on for size:
- "The most important thing my mom taught me...."
- "One thing I can do to make my mom's life easier...."
- "I should tell my mom that...."
- "Would you trade places with your mom for a day if you could?"
- "I really appreciate it when my mom...."
- "If my mom could do anything or go anywhere in the world, she would...."
- "My mom and I love to...."
“Once a writer selects a writing prompt that inspires them, their creative mind is then able to focus on a specific topic of interest. Getting focused brings clarity to the mind, which helps to open a writer up to greater levels of creative thinking and expression," Jill says. “A specific prompt also serves as a guidepost marker on the writer's journey as they explore the best way in which to express their thoughts about their chosen topic into written words."
In looking back at old letters and greeting cards I received over the years from my mom, it's heartwarming to see that she signed “her" name in all the various versions I recall.
I love you, Mommy / Mama / Hilda / Mom. Happy Mother's Day!
Ready to have a happy Mother's Day? Pick a prompt, and then pick up the phone.