One thing I didn't like about my mother, part two

June 7, 2014 • Posted in Blogroll, guest blog, memoir writing, Uncategorized by

Sharon Kramer is a new writer in the memoir-writing class I lead at the Chicago Cultural Center. I’d intended on using an excerpt from her “One Thing I Didn’t Like About My Mother” essay in my last blog post, but soon realized that to really get the gist, you have to read this wonderful essay in its entirety. So here it is.

Nothing is wrong. Why do you ask?

by Sharon Kramer

When my sister got a divorce, my mother wore sun glasses for an entire month. She loved my sister’s husband, Lenny, and thought Marilyn was making a mistake by leaving him. She never said a word. Just wore the sunglasses. That was her statement.sunglasses

When I was married Mom wore sunglasses to my December wedding<!–more–>

because, I assume, she didn’t like my choice of a mate. She never said a word. Just wore the sunglasses. I had to guess what she was thinking.

My mother wore sunglasses through every family trauma, dispute, emergency, abnormality, argument, or opinion that wasn’t hers. I would often say, “Is everything ok, Mom?” She would invariably respond, “I’m fine. Nothing is wrong.” She probably thought she was being strong and discreet. Actually, the sunglasses made a louder noise than screaming or stomping.

My mother believed that showing any emotion was a sign of weakness. She must have thought that the sunglasses were a perfect disguise, mysterious and controlled. What she didn’t realize was that the sunglasses cut off all communication. We could never disagree with her or fight for ourselves or offer an opinion, because the sunglasses bellowed, “I am through communicating about this topic. Don’t bother me.” And, often we didn’t even know what the topic was.

As a young girl I always thought I did something wrong when I saw the sunglasses balanced on my mother’s nose. I would hide in my room and mope, trying to figure out what I had done to provoke her. Often I ended up apologizing. As I grew older, I realized she couldn’t cope with feelings, fears and opinions and the sunglasses had nothing to do with me.

Travelling as a family, my mother would be the first to go to the ladies’ room in a restaurant. If it was not to her liking, she returned to the table, popped open her purse and put on her sunglasses. “I lost my appetite,” she would say, “but order what you want and enjoy yourselves.” My sisters and my father were silent.

Of course, we left the restaurant and found another where my mother inspected the ladies’ room while we all sat silently, hands and menus folded in waiting.

My mother wore sunglasses the day after I quit college. When my Dad went into a nursing home, Mom would visit in her dark glasses. You couldn’t tell if she was crying, frightened, sad or relieved. When Mom’s best friend Pauline died, I accompanied mom to the funeral. Of course, she wore sunglasses throughout the service.

When she was 100 years old, I took my mother to an assisted living facility for an interview. She had been saying that she needed more help.

On the way home in the cab, I said, “Well, mom, what did you think?” She opened her purse, took out her sunglasses, and popped them on. I knew we would never go back. We never did.

Marjorie Freed On June 7, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Swell story from Sharon.


bethfinke On June 7, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Yes, I thought so, too –thanks for the comment!


Syril Beskin On June 7, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Beth, I loved your blog about your Mother.


Syril Beskin

bethfinke On June 8, 2014 at 9:37 am

Thanks Syril. Just to make this clear, though, this post is not about *my* mother, it is a guest post written by Sharon Kramer about *her* mother. Thank you for leaving the compliment, I’ll make sure to pass it on to Sharon.


Syril Beskin On June 7, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Also please change my e-mail to:

  Syril Beskin

bethfinke On June 8, 2014 at 9:51 am

Will do, Syril. In fact, what I’ll do is send you another invitation to follow my blog, you can fill in your new address there. For other blog readers who are interested in receiving an email message letting you know when we’ve published a new blog post, if you find the link here to “follow Beth’s blog” or “get email updates” or whatever it says, you can link there and fill out a form and then be subscribed to this blog — it’s an easy way to keep up with us! .


bethfinke On June 8, 2014 at 9:55 am

Wow. You’ve been a writer in the memoir class a long time, Joan, so this comment says a lot. I’ll make sure Sharon reads it –thanks!


Sharon Kramer On June 9, 2014 at 5:30 am

thank you so much. This blog has been so encouraging to me.

bethfinke On June 9, 2014 at 8:56 am

What a coincidence — if you read the next comment by Sue, you’ll see that sharing your story has been encouraging to others, too…

suemartin571563429 On June 7, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Thanks for this story Beth. It hit me like a ton of bricks. This week, my book, Out of the Whirlpool, became available on BARD, the Talking Book Library for folks with print disabilities. Of course I had to grab the book and give it a listen. I think hearing it in another person’s voice is allowing me to listen more objectively than I ever have before. I was struck by my description of my mother raising us with nothing but sweetness and light. And that’s what this story reminded me of. A laudible goal perhaps, but it meant that I didn’t learn to deal with negativity and anger until I was in my 30’s. Again beth, a beautifully written story. Thanks.

Sharon Kramer On June 9, 2014 at 5:31 am

I didn’t realize how my mother not allowing us to respond was damaging to us until I wrote this story. Thanks for your comments.

bethfinke On June 9, 2014 at 9:00 am

Just more evidence of something I have long said about memoir-writing: it can be very therapeutic.

mrayis On June 7, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Wow. That’s very powerful.

bethfinke On June 8, 2014 at 9:57 am

Agreed. And you should hear Sharon read her work out loud in class. Powerful, yet funny — she’d be good on Moth, I think. Or on stage.


bethfinke On June 8, 2014 at 9:59 am

My pleasure, Sherri. Thank you for commenting!


Catherine Rategan On June 8, 2014 at 8:46 am

Wow! Sharon’s mother is really a piece of work! Nice job of memoir writing.

bethfinke On June 8, 2014 at 10:10 am

Yes, and it came in at, get this, 498 words exactly. Follows my 500-word guideline to a t!


Catherine Rategan On June 9, 2014 at 10:04 am

You’re right, Beth. Memoir-writing can be therapeutic, but it’s not therapy.

bethfinke On June 9, 2014 at 10:07 am

Oops. I stand corrected. thanks for the grammatical (and ethical) correction there.


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