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  • Writer's pictureKendall Hunter

Unpacking Mother's Day

Updated: May 19

Some days just hold extra weight. I moved back to Banff, from Toronto, a couple years ago to write a guidebook for an international series. Because I wasn’t sure how long I’d be back in my hometown, I left a lot of things behind, stored with one of my daughters. Recently, she decided to move across the country, so it was time for me to take responsibility for my ‘stuff’.  Several moves, beginning with a transatlantic one, post-divorce, has left my material life  ‘diminished’, made up of mostly books, photos, files, many, many, many notepads filled with all kinds of scribbles, favourite stuffy toys of my daughters, their artwork, ballet slippers, riding pants, and climbing shoes. Life extracted from a house. Childhoods. Images. Words.


I arranged a pick-up date for my ’22 boxes’ but had little control over the number of days the moving company would take to travel across the country, or how long my things would be in storage, on both ends, while schedules and timeframes were worked out. Dispatch eventually called to let me know delivery was scheduled for Sunday morning, Mother’s Day. Perfect I thought, I’d be home, planning on having time to catch up with my daughters, both of whom were time zones away.


Standing over a beaten-up cardboard box, I blink a couple of times not trusting what my eyes are seeing. Considering the day, it feels orchestrated. On top of layers of books and files is a white folded piece of paper, a card with ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ written across it in colourful pencil crayon. I gently slide it to the side to discover another card with the same message. Two cards from both daughters, written over a decade ago, greet me. This box had traveled almost 3000km and was stored for three weeks in a warehouse, there’s no way my daughter could have planned this. I text them both a photo to let them know they’re here with me in an extremely adorable way.

Rummaging through another two boxes I uncover photos taken when I worked as a photojournalist in South Africa. Images of marches and rallies and right-wing uprisings are mixed with family photos; magazine columns I’d written about being an expat Mom; a thick blue folder full of appointments, test results and my chemo schedule from Princess Margaret Cancer hospital in Toronto. Halfway through the second box, as I remove a Globe & Mail clip of a travel story, I’d written pre-internet about Zürich’s Cabaret Voltaire, I hesitate as my fingers land on yet another Mother’s Day card.

This is unreal!, replies my eldest.

My apartment is small and as these artefacts, remnants, and reminders begin to engulf me, I begin to question if I should have sent it all straight to storage. Eight boxes in, nearing the bottom, a third card surfaces — a huge pink and yellow heart next to rainbow-coloured letters saying ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ gifts me love over the years and across the miles.

This is kinda Crazy!’ my youngest texts me back.  


This last card was uncovered from beneath six books about women photojournalists, research for a hybrid memoir I’ve been working on, for… about a decade…on and off. It began when I travelled to meet some of the world’s top women photojournalists to speak with them about the work they do. I made the choice, then, to bring my daughters with me — to show them the world beyond their own pristine doorstep. In retrospect this was one of the best life decisions I’ve ever made. It may not have made sense from the outside but while I healed, I pushed walls that felt like they were closing in on us, away, and the world became large.

But, at some point life events began to pile relentlessly one upon the other and unearthing a narrative to tie it all together felt absurd — there was too much to sort through. Today, though, through this random, poetic coincidence of Mother’s Day cards, there’s the suggestion of a through line. As life literally piles around me, box by box, I can’t dismiss it. The constant expression of love between my daughters and I, over the years, encourages me to continue to make sense of it all, to sit down and at least start by writing this and to see where it takes me….

Happy Mother's Day!





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