What My Mother Taught Me About Shakespeare (Amy)

“The cathexis between mother and daughter—essential, distorted misused — is the great unwritten story. Probably there is nothing in human nature more resonant with charges than the flow of energy between two biologically alike bodies, one which has lain in amniotic bliss inside the other, one which has labored to give birth to the other.”
~Adrienne Rich 1971


(Blog piece written at 11:00 pm…June 30, 2011)

Today was my 40thbirthday and I spent the day by myself in quiet contemplation. I have always loved having a summer birthday and my fondest childhood memories stem from the parties my mom would host for me at the beach. One of the charms of living in the UP of Michigan is being surrounded by lakes and sometimes it even gets warm enough swim. We frequented the beach often in the summers of my youth and the sugary taste of watermelon, or a plum or nectarine instantly transports me to afternoons infused with the smell of coconut suntan oil at Bewabic State Park on the shores of Fortune Lake. Blissfully I remember the satisfying sun-kissed and water-logged contentment I’d feel at the end of

Amy's 8th Birthday

the day. It was sunny this afternoon and I could have ventured out and spent the day at Teal Lake or Lake Superior. Instead I practiced calm reflection at home. It was not a mourning rite for my fortieth year and in fact it was quite the opposite. I believe that this is going to be a miraculous year. As I compose this piece in the darkness of our study the windows are open and even the wind outside feels charged with a magical energy. I think that for both Heather and I our 40th year will provide an awakening of wisdom in ourselves as women, teachers and especially as writers.

Last week Heather and I led the UPWP Advanced Institute,“Digital Storytelling Using a Mentor Text” at NMU. I knew Romeo and Juliet would serve as my mentor text but I was not sure what shape my digital story would take. Ideas were surfacing from Dr. Kia Jane Richmond’s YA Lit course that I was finishing up at NMU. Kia had helped me brainstorm ideas for a theory paper that would examine the relationships between mother and daughters in literature. I decided to analyze a variety of texts using feminist theory. I choose a survey of literature that included the myth of Demeter and Persephone from Greek mythology, Lady Capulet and Juliet from Romeo and Juliet, and Virginia Euwer Wolff’s contemporary YA Lit novel Make Lemonade. What I found especially striking about my research was the fact that many feminist scholars maintain that often in narratives that involve mother and daughter relationships, the mother’s voice is often silent. As I researched and composed my paper my thoughts focused on my relationship with my mother and from there my digital story began to sprout.

When Heather and I began to formulate a plan for the “Digital Storytelling with a Mentor Text” workshop we discussed how participants would at completion of the course, have created a digital story that would serve as a multi-purpose teaching tool that they could use in their classroom and/or use in a professional development setting. Heather and I love the NWP approach of modeling ourselves as writers to our students and Teachers Teaching Teachers..

The idea for my digital story seemed simple enough, but it’s creation caused much vexation for me and I experienced multiple false starts and stops. Since the focus of the story would be to compare and contrast the relationship of Lady Capulet and Juliet with that of my relationship with my mother I decided the perfect time to unveil the story would be on my 40th birthday. I established Thursday as my final deadline and over the course of the week visited my story often. Needless to say, last night I was working feverishly and still had not finished when my husband’s alarm sounded. Before leaving for work he convinced me to try to get some sleep. His advice of “stepping away” from the project for a while to gain a new perspective was exactly what I needed. After a few hours of rest I was able to finalize my project. When Heather called me tonight to wish me a ‘Happy Birthday’ I shared how creating this story was an emotional journey and she responded (as she did in her last blog post) that putting together a digital story is like “giving birth.” I was exhausted but exhilarated and so thankful for my supportive community of writing project friends.

In other blog posts I’ve shared how writing in the digital world allows our writing to breathe. While labored for hours on my script, photos and elements of my story, it is a video that I will be able to use year-after-year with my students to share a piece of myself. It will be a teaching tool that I will use after they experience Romeo and Julietto help them use literature as lens to examine their lives and the world. It will be a piece to model writing, digital literacy and hopefully will encourage them to share their own stories. I always tell my students that our writing is a wonderful way to help us chart our growth as individuals. In a very real sense a digital story becomes a time capsule that records our voice and our vision. I look forward to the magical year ahead the blog posts that Heather and I will share.

Amy's Beautiful Mother Karen

Tomorrow my mom will be traveling to our house to celebrate my birthday. We are hoping for sunshine, not so we can go to the beach, but so we can do some vegetable gardening, grill out and enjoy each other’s company outside. I am excited to share the digital gift that made for her on my 40thbirthday to thank her for her wisdom and sacrifice.

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