My Mother’s Story: North Vancouver
Wendy Noel was once embarrassed of her mother. She wasn’t a typical 1950s mom — the house was messy, she went to school, she sat on community boards, she was divorced.
“You had two options: become a nurse or teacher then get married and have kids. That was the script,” says Noel, who wrote about her mother’s life for the play My Mother’s Story: North Vancouver.
“Doris did it differently,” she says of her “trailblazing” mother who is now 83-years-old.
Growing up, Noel always felt her family was different.
“Not a lot of women did it before her, so it was very challenging,” she says referring to the struggles her mother has with not fitting into the mold of an ideal ‘50s housewife.
“She was ahead of her time, at least on our street and in her family.”
Her parents’ divorce, for instance, sent shockwaves through the community, she says, because it was far less common back then.
Doris later became a social worker and director of an organization in Burnaby.
“She struggled because she thought her voice wasn’t valued; she wanted to have a say in the way things were,” says Noel, a councillor and actress, who will be preforming her mother’s story for the play.
Noel isn’t embarrassed of her mom any longer. Instead, she’s proud of her unconventional accomplishments and thinks she’s “actually quite cool.”
Forty other women wrote their mother’s stories — no judgements, just facts — and eight were selected for My Mother’s Story: North Vancouver, which runs from Oct. 19 to 28 at the Presentation House Theatre.
In the past, eight shows were produced from the stories written by Vancouver actors, but this is the first time the stories used were submitted by regular folk. The daughters all live in North Van but their mothers come from around the world.
Telling women their mothers lived exciting lives, whether they knew it or not, was empowering, says the play’s producer Marilyn Norry.
“Just hearing the birthplaces and birth dates told me I’d hit gold: Punjabi, India: 1910; Macedonia: 1915; Osaka; 1934; Squamish Nation: 1940.”
The 41 stories submitted from workshops in North Van encouraged Norry to publish a book to go along with the play.
“[The stories] are told without embellishment, there are no holds barred: Adoption, abortions, addiction, abuse, arranged marriages — and those are just the As,” she says.
Noel grew up having a more challenging relationship with her mother than her brother and sister did, but later realized it was because she was the most like her. “I push things,” Noel says proudly.
Although everyone has unique experiences with their mother, she says there is always a common element.
“You might not have been embarrassed the house was messy, but you could have been embarrassed of your mothers laugh or how she was too quiet. Anyone can see a bit of their relationship in each story.”
To get tickets or to order the book, visit mymothersstory.org.