Purple crocus and glories of the snow burst across the sodden mat of brown grass and maple leaves stretching from house to house on Roberts Street. Grit and fine dirt cover front lawns, curbs, and streets.

It’s a dirty transition.

Yet, spirits rise along with the sun. On the Keweenaw, we have missed our blazing star of daylight, oft-hidden beneath clouds or fog. Mause has rediscovered sleeping in sunbeams and I’ve opened my sun porch for the first time since September. I feel like I’m emerging from a time warp.

Mother’s Day in the US came early, the second Sunday in May falling on the 8th. Next weekend is my Svalbardian daughter’s birthday, and the following is mine. My son and DIL invited me to their home in Wisconsin to spend the weekend. May is rich beyond measure with sunshine, flowers, and the promise of cake.

Moms, as a topic, is complex. We all have one, and yet our relationships, proximity, and stories differ. How we craft moms in stories is endless. Who do we have in mind when we craft moms into our writing? Do we idealize, vilify, or seek to understand moms? What books have you read that feature a mom you adored, or one you abhorred?

Sometimes, moms remain like ghosts in the background of our main characters. I often think of the ghosts of my maternal line and wonder how DNA or generational experiences have shaped who my mom is, who I am, and who my daughters are. Do we regard maternal lines because history has little to say about women? Or do women pass down secret knowledge unbroken between generations?

In women’s circles, I’ve introduced myself as “Daughter of…” It feels empowering and yet maddening that I can only go back a short way. I’m Charli, daughter of Marie, daughter of Donna, daughter of Mayme, Daughter of Maria de Abreu. Maria, or Mary as she later anglicized her name, passed down her auburn hair and a warning to her descendants — don’t step foot in the church.

By the time the story reached me, the facts proved to be fiction. No matter the reason, I believe the warning is the point of the embellished tales. Recently, I began studying the DNA to suss out an explanation. Last week, I realized Ancestry had created a new DNA feature. Without samples, they can determine what percentage I receive from each parent of my ethnic heritage.

My eldest and I have tried to unravel the mystery of our red-headed Portuguese grandmother, Maria de Abreu Chado Ferreira. She married a Portuguese Brazilian on her home island of Madiera. She may have been born in a fishing village, Camara de Lobos (Chamber of Sea Wolves). But when she left, she had no more ties to family. Despite her distinct name, I’ve had trouble finding her in any records. Her daughter, Mayme Ferreira, married my Bumpa, Marcus Bundeson, the son of poor Danish immigrants.

Theoretically, the union made my Grandma Donna half Portuguese and half Danish. Yet, according to the new Ancestry DNA split view, I inherited one percent of my Portuguese DNA from my mother, who oddly enough, also contributed four percent Balkans. Balkans? I don’t even know how to process that. Nothing in my family tree hints at a Balkans heritage.

Or maybe, the hint is in the distrust of the church for the women of my lineage.

Trying to understand the Balkans connection I discovered that many Sephardic Jews persecuted in Spain and Portugal fled to the Balkans, and later immigrated to the Azores, where Madiera is among the Portuguese islands. Could Maria de Abreu be a descendant of crypto-Jews, those forced to convert during the Portuguese Inquisition? Searching her surname I discovered it is believed to be of Jewish origin. Was that why daughters were not to step foot in a church?

It’s disconcerting but I also found every Portuguese surname in my family tree to be among those recorded in the Portuguese Inquisition. What I don’t have is connecting evidence. Within a week, I inquired with an organization researching the hidden lineage of Sephardic Jews and they are looking for records on Maria’s past. Will it explain her auburn hair?

When I read about the near-genocide of Sephardic Jews in the Balkans region during WWII, I realized those could have been unknown cousins who had survived multiple inquisitions. I laid my head on my desk and cried. It might not be my mother’s story but it is the story of someone’s mom. Many moms. We are the survivors of moms who survived, and back and back and back.

May we go forward with new stories of moms.

This week, we are going to create mom selfies. Think of it as a 99-word image or impression. Take a story snapshot of a mom in repose, action, or study. Think of how you craft an image, allowing readers to slip into the character’s skin, or keep her at a distance. Use memory or real-time. Explore different genres. Use elements of imagery or flow of dialog. Challenge your craft skills this week and experiment.

May 9, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a mom selfie — a story that creates an image of a mom. No one mom looks alike or fits a maternal mold. Who is she? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by May 15, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

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