original writing: Betty’s purse, for Mother’s Day

May 11, 2012

Like anyone who’s got fingers and a keyboard or a notebook to torture, I’ve written about my mother. First poem I wrote was a saccharine bit of business about motherhood (from which I will spare you), about the storybook glory of motherhood, written full-heartedly by my 11 year old self, only a little aware of the complicated nature of Betty’s relationship to motherhood. The story ends happily, with all peaces made and a truly good death. One of the most satisfying things I’ve ever written was about six months after her death, in an essay for The Gazette, where I do my paid work, for a series called The Things We Carry. What I carried, from Winnipeg to my home in Montreal, was my mother’s purse. Here’s the start of the essay. Click the link below to read the full essay.

“Stay out of mummy’s purse.”

I knew, as I did back when I called her mummy, that I should not be in my mother’s purse. And it didn’t matter that I was putting something in and not fishing for, say, movie-star red lipstick.

That the voice was only in my head did not make it any less arresting.

Click here to read The Unbearable Heaviness of My Mother’s Purse.



  1. Denise, you brought me to tears. Somehow I missed this in the Gazette (probably because I only read the papers on Saturday now). We use The Things They Carried in my writing workshop at the Thomas More Institute. It invariably sets each writer off on a course they had no idea about. Mothers and daughters are, of course, always fertile ground for writing. Thank you.

    • aw thanks kathe. (and sorry about the garble at the top. i have to trim that when i get into the office.

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