One day when she had stayed home to do some housework, she noticed Dr Joe Carr, who came to their parsonage to counsel Don, regarding his pastoral leadership at the Leeds Church. He came into the house dressed in the uniform of a National Basketball professional team.  Muff, asked Dr Car, why he came to the homes of his clients and did not have them come to his office and why he wore the basketball uniform. He told her that he came to his clients homes because he could learn more about them in their homes than when they came to his office and he wore the basketball uniform because he was employed as the coach counselor for an outstandingly talented national professional basketball team, which could not win without learning to relate to one another. Since Counseling was his profession, he wore the basketball uniform in order for clients to learn the importance of relationships. He also said that he liked to come to their parsonage because his mother was a pastor and he had lived in a parsonage. Joe also attended the Leeds Pastor Staff Parish Relations Committee with Don at the church and complimented Don and the committee’s productive conversation regarding their relationship with one another and the church. He called them a winning team.

That evening after Joe had gone home, and Muff and Don were talking, Muff wondered if Joe would talk with her about something that was bothering her. She knew that she was loved by her father, her grandmother and her grandfather and many friends, like she was loved by many current friends, but something was wrong with her and she didn’t know what it was. When Don asked her why she wanted to talk with Joe, she told him, “I am sure that he makes lots of money as a leading NBA basketball coach counselor and his wife is the warden of a Delaware woman’s detention center, so he has more than enough money to purchase a modern automobile, yet he drives a beat up old European car like detective Columbo’s. He impresses me because his clients are more important to him than his possessions. Consequently, she said that she trusts Joe and would like him to help her with a problem.”

The next time Joe came to the house, Don went outside and worked in the yard so Muff and Joe could talk privately. After Joe left, Don came back in, and Muff told him what she and Joe had talked about. “I told him that something was bothering me, but I didn’t know what it was. He asked me if I thought it was something that had happened to me recently or a long time ago, and I told him that I didn’t think it was recently, and it might’ve been a longtime ago. We talked about different things, but we didn’t strike any pay dirt.  Eventually, Joe asked me if I had any childhood photographs? I told him that since my father was a prolific photographer, I had boxes of them. He suggested that I get them out, sit down, look at them to see what happens to me. So after he left and before you came back inside I got them out, sat down and began to study them and I need to tell you what I discovered.” Don sat down next to her, remained quiet and listened as Muff explained.

“I noticed bright cheerful pictures of me smiling and happy as a little girl until I became six years of age and the pictures then showed me unhappy and frowning until I was seven. I remembered when I was six I became aware that my mother would not allow me to have my own mind about what to do or not to do. She told me how to dress and what to say or not say. Once when she was expressing her opinion about something and I chimed in with my own opinion. She slapped me so hard that my teeth rattled. Understandably, after that, when I was between six and seven years of age, I buried my own God given ability to think for myself deep down inside when I was around her. I have never mentioned the hurt and shame I felt by not having been able to speak for myself when around her, not even to you, except for one girlfriend who was my high school girlfriend. I told her at our twenty-fifth high school class reunion. Neither of us were able in our school days to talk about our mothers, and just now being able to talk with one another about my pain and shame of being unreasonably and dictatorially controlled by my mother is freeing. That is what made me so hurt and sad in my photos when I was between six and seven year old. Of course when I was seven the pictures of me indicated that I was happy again because I decided with my father and grandparent’s help and support to be myself regardless of my mother.”  Don and Muff put their arms around one another as they joyfully and gratefully hugged and kissed. As she remembered, the pent up tears of hurt and grief from long ago were released and rolled down her cheeks. 

Next week when Joe came, Muff showed him the photographs and shared with him what she had hidden deep down inside of herself. He asked her to tell her story to him as he quietly and attentively listened and then after she stopped he repeated everything back to her and told her how pleased he was that she trusted him and shared this information with him. He then asked her if he had heard her correctly and was there anything else that she wanted to share. When she was satisfied that Joe had understood, accepted, appreciated, supported and respected what she had told him, he suggested that she confidentially tell others whom she trusted besides Don whom she told Joe that she had already told. “Otherwise’, he explained, ‘your grief will continue to pop-up anytime, any place and sometimes in embarrassing and inappropriate situations. So keep telling those whom you trust”. 

Joe also noted, “It was interesting that when you were a child you not only realized that you did not want to be dictatorially controlled by you mother, but you were obviously understood, accepted, appreciated and supported by your Father, Grandparents and younger Sister, who encouraged you to be your own charming God given true self. And not only that, but what I have learned from your parishioners that you are a fabulous mother, of your own children and have helped them and your neighbors and parishioners to be their own God given true selves, too!” He further affirmed Muff by saying, “Being a pastor’s spouse is probably the most difficult job in the church. Anyway, now that you have uncovered your vulnerability, you can continue to let your own God given true self, shine like a bright star in a night sky and Continue to be your own God given true self. You’re a fabulous person.” 

Then before leaving Joe asked this one last question. “Have you had a chance to think about the reason your mother tried to dictatorially control you?” Muff answered, “Yes, I’ve had a chance to think about this and I think that my mother’s parents spoiled her by allowing her get her own way in everything while she was growing up because of their fear of losing her like they had lost her older brother, who died as a little baby, two years before she was born. Consequently, she grew up to be a spoiled brat, getting whatever, whenever she wanted it by bossing me around. She was like a two year old that never grew out of everything in the world revolving around herself.  I don’t think she was intentionally or diabolically mean or a cruel. She just did the best she could as a mother raising me her first child. It was not easy for her and in those days, mothers and their children did not talk about their relationships openly even after the children were grown adults. I have forgiven her for what she was trying to do to me and why. I know that under the circumstances she did the best she could. Maybe it will be different in the world to come. When we meet, I’ll hug her, we might even laugh and shed some tears of remorse and enjoy genuine forgiveness together.”

Joe felt that his work with Muff was completed, but before leaving, he thanked and complimented both Muff and Don for being their own God given true selves and sharing their lives with him as well as with many other trusted friends. After a group hug, he was on his way.

Muff’s Recent picture