It’s high time to share some stories with you on The Story Woman blog, starting with “My Mother’s Song.” Before scrolling down to read Karen’s Mother Memoir, I thought a little background would make sense. Forty-some short, true stories (bio-vignettes) have been woven throughout the thoughtful prompts and intriguing exercises in my recently published, award-winning guidebook, TellTale Souls Writing the Mother Memoir: How to Tap Memory and Write Your Story Capturing Character & Spirit. Each story was placed just so in the book to serve as an example for a point I’m making as daughters and sons take the journey into Tapping Memory & Writing Mother Memoir.
To find more stories I’ve posted from the book, search “Bio-Vignette No. 1,” then simply scroll to read more telling tales.
Karen’s telling tale is the first bio-vignette in the TellTale Souls book. It follows a paragraph concluding a section I wrote about the significance of persistent memories:
…. “On the other hand, some of you may be forever going back to certain memories from long ago that just won’t let you be. Frequently occurring and persistent memories present themselves to all of us from time to time. Authors have written entire books based on one memory they could not let go. Writing your Mother Memoir may revolve around one of your persistent memories about your mom. A poignant story, written by Karen, a TellTale Soul, centers around the “look” she gave her mother years ago. This powerful memory haunted her as she thought about it over and over again throughout the years. She said writing her bio-vignette, giving that certain recurrent memory over to paper, and finally presenting it to her mother set her free. I’ve seen her shed tears in group settings when she read her story aloud.”
My Mother’s Song
My mother has always been my protector, my ally, and my soul mate. I was safe in her care, protected from cruelty and derision. She is my sanctuary, my safe place. I have always had the knowledge that through her I am loved, no matter what. She gave me the strength to survive the hard experiences that would be part of my life. My greatest regret is that I deprived her of the same pure love in a moment of pure selfishness.
During a church service we were standing, singing a hymn. It was a powerful hymn that inspired the singers to sing at fortissimo, with spirit. As I stood in front of my mother, hearing her beautiful soprano voice singing in praise, I decided she was singing too loudly. Why I decided that or upon what I based my decision I’ll never know. It could only have been an adolescent attitude of not being “cool.” I judged her as singing too loudly. I turned around and gave her what must have been and what has come to be called “the look.”
In that moment, I learned the absolute meaning of power, and of the power I truly possessed. The look on my mother’s face was one of true pain and hurt. I discovered the power to destroy another human being, her joy in simple pleasures, her joy in life. The moment when my mother ceased to sing was the most frightening of my life. She closed her hymnal and stood silent. Absolutely silent. By the end of the verse, I hated what I had done. I opened a hymnal and turned to hand it to her. Her eyes, the color of a vibrant blue summer sky, always warm with love, were now ice blue, the pain startlingly visible. Being the kind person she is, she took the hymnal from me, but she didn’t resume singing. I don’t think there was any way at that place in time that she could have found her voice. It had been silenced by her oldest daughter’s cruelty. The pain was too great. I had embarrassed my mother as only her child could.
The blessing of my childhood and my life is that my mother is a spiritual, loving, caring, and compassionate person. She teaches through example, the way she lives her life. Random acts of kindness were a part of my mother’s life long before they became chic. Forgiveness is always granted, never withheld.
It was perhaps not that exact day in chapel that I chose to turn away from that dark side of my spirit. But it was the clarifying event that solidified the path I would attempt to follow—and the person’s life I would try to emulate.
I vowed not to silence anyone’s joy ever again. Instead, I would work to follow Mother’s example by recognizing and reinforcing the talents and abilities of others. I would strive to be compassionate, looking for ways to communicate soul-to-soul and attending to the needs of others.
My mother will probably leave this life before I do, and I know I will feel again the pain I inflicted upon her 35 years ago—the emptiness, the sorrow, the momentary lapse in her joy of song and life. But when I pass from this mortal existence, I hope the first sound I hear will be my mother’s beautiful soprano voice singing my welcome.
Karen Welch-Coleman: “As the oldest of eight children, I have always had a very close and symbiotic relationship with my mother. She has nurtured, cherished, and forgiven me when needed. One of my deepest regrets was a careless and cruel moment during my teenage years that she in no way deserved. I’ve wanted to take that moment back more often than I can count over my life’s journey. May the sharing of this experience pay tribute to her and provide redemption for me.”
Karen Welch-Coleman: “As the oldest of eight children, I have always had a very close and symbiotic relationship with my mother. She has nurtured, cherished, and forgiven me when needed. One of my deepest regrets was a careless and cruel moment during my teenage years that she in no way deserved. I’ve wanted to take that moment back more often than I can count over my life’s journey. May the sharing of this experience pay tribute to her and provide redemption for me.” Photo contributed by Karen: In the rose garden with Mother.
You, too, can begin “Keeping Spirits Alive” by writing your Mother Memoir.