An Old Scrapbook Transforms Mothers’ Day

Mother’s Day used to be a very difficult time for me. I hated looking for cards, trying to balance honesty and schmaltz. In my heart I know my Mom wanted one of those cards that declared her to be the best mother ever, epitomizing all the Hallmark stereotypes.

But she wasn’t.

I have no doubt that she loved me but the struggles with depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) churned like twin propellers on the ship called Our Family. The wake was unpredictable and very real.

For many years memory of my mother was coloured by the times of estrangement and emotional absence.

The change began with appreciating some of her struggle.

As I grew to understand more of depression and OCD I came to see the amount of will and courage it took for my mother to make sure we were clothed, fed, taken to church and sent off to school. 

When my brother’s autism and OCD – unnamed and undiagnosed – began to require interaction with school officials it was almost more than she could bear. Many times, after meeting with The Teacher or The Principal, she would sit, overcoat drawn tightly around her, at the kitchen table, silently weeping, pleading “What should I do?”

There is no question that she did more than her best on many days.

The wounds from words and letters expressing her anger and disappointment in me took longer to heal.

The beginning of that shift came after her death. My wife and I had the responsibility to go through “her things” – the closet, the collection of tea cups and spoons, the dinner china.

In the bedroom of my parents was a cedar chest that predated my birth. I had never seen it open nor had my father I think.

At the bottom we discovered old scrapbooks filled with memories and clippings of times and loves before my father.

As we worked through each page came compassion and understanding of some of the fierceness of her reactions to my key life decisions.

Empathy has transforming power.

Happy Mothers’ Day, Mom.

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