Last September, Lynn Bonsey, a bespectacled 70-year-old whose nickname is Clod, deadpanned her way through a 35-second TikTok chronicle of indignities suffered since she was a teenager. “This is where I got stuck in the waterslide,” she said, standing in front of Funtown Splashtown USA, in Saco. “This,” she continued outside a Falmouth church, “is where I was a bridesmaid . . . and never saw the bride again.” And, speaking from the parking lot at a South Portland department store, “This is where, moments after meeting me, a hairdresser announced, ‘I’m going to cut your hair to focus eyes away from your Rubenesque belly and double chin.’”
Bonsey’s daughter, 33-year-old Hilary Eyestone, thinks her mother is funny and weird in a good way. That’s why she put her on TikTok. But she never expected so many people would agree. By year’s end, 4.9 million people had watched Bonsey’s self-deprecating catalog of mortifications. “This is where I found my favorite TikTok story ever,” one viewer commented. “You have me thinking of all the messed-up things that happened to me,” wrote another.
There are plenty more stories where those came from. Bonsey’s handwritten diaries, which she faithfully kept from age 15 until her early 30s, are the primary source for My Mother’s Diaries, the mother-daughter pair’s TikTok account and podcast. But it’s the retired teacher’s longtime penchant for dryly recounting everyday absurdities that inspired Eyestone, a Gorham-based photographer, to record her. “It’s her delivery,” Eyestone says. “She doesn’t know how funny she is.”
Bonsey, a self-described klutz, acquired her nickname as a teenager in Falmouth, when a gym teacher affectionately punned on her first name, Claudia. “She called me Clod. I was so uncoordinated that she had me walk around the track while everyone else was playing soccer,” she says. Not surprisingly, Bonsey’s clumsiness is at the center of many of her stories, like stumbling backwards into a shower stall after receiving her first kiss, in a neighbor’s camp, at age 15 and tripping on her ball gown at a University of Southern Maine beauty pageant when she was 20.
She raised her two children and taught middle school in Surry, retiring to Bucksport a few years ago, and she has been sharing pithy diary excerpts with her daughter for about a decade, often on the entry’s anniversary. “We have the same weird sense of humor,” Eyestone says. “I wanted to record her stories for my future children and just to spend time with her.”
About three years ago, the pair printed some of Bonsey’s diary quotes on T-shirts, which they handed out to friends and sold on Etsy. “Then we talked about doing a podcast as a way to share her stories with family and her former students, who loved her,” Eyestone says. “TikTok was totally random. I thought it might do ok, but we ended up with a much bigger audience than we ever envisioned.”
They dropped their first video, a tour of places Bonsey worked, shopped, dated, and bumbled when she was in her teens and early 20s, on May 21 of last year. “The next day, I got a call: ‘Mom, you’re going viral,’” Bonsey says. “I said, ‘What the heck does that mean?’ It was at 30,000 views, and it just kept going up and up and up.”
Since then, they’ve created dozens of short videos, typically with Bonsey standing on location and delivering a one-line description of something that happened there, and they’ve added to their podcasts, where they plumb topics like getting stuck on waterslides. “I feel so lucky to have a mom who lets me do this,” Eyestone says. “We’re creatively aligned, and we just want to have fun.”