Aesthetic Realism Consultant, Writer, Poet (1919-1980)
Introduction to My Mother Was a Girl
In an Aesthetic Realism Beauty Conference Sheldon Kranz had in the early 1950s--a class in which Eli Siegel looked critically at the work of one particular artist or writer--Mr. Siegel discussed his prose and poetry. In speaking of this short story, "My Mother Was a Girl," Mr. Siegel said:
"One of the things that is going on in the world today is trying to see mothers and fathers justly. They sometimes collaborate in not being seen justly. But because there is this confusion, there is this discontent. Napoleon had difficulty with his mother. His mother was always saying, 'All right, he's got all of Europe now, but just wait, we'll see what happens.' And she was right! He went to St. Helena.
There is a story Mr. Kranz wrote recently called My Mother Was a Girl. In this story, he deals with a mother as if she were an object of wonder. It's a story that mothers should know, and I hope that one of these days it will be in a position so that mothers can see it. I think if this story were given its proper place in McCall's magazine or Ladies Home Journal, it would help mothers because they are in a conspiracy not to be understood by their children. They are afraid to talk of themselves before they were married, and so that child thinks, 'I know my mother only when she was a mother.' Out of that can come all kinds of undesirable things.
The minute he came into the house, he knew it was the wrong evening. His mother had those pained lines between her eyes, and her voice was sharp when she spoke. He escaped into the bathroom to stall for time.
He wished he had arranged to come later in the week, but he and May were busy every night. And if he didn't come one week, it always ended in accusations and his losing his temper. He wished his mother didn't live alone. If she had more to take up her time, things would be easier. Once a week she and some women got together and sewed for charity. Twice a month she visited an old friend in Jackson Heights. She never went to the movies unless he took her. It wasn't enough to keep anybody busy.
He washed his hands slowly, and then combed his hair carefully. He had to stoop slightly to see himself in the mirror. His hair needed a trimming, he noticed. He looked at himself critically. The long face like his father's, the irregular features, the sharp chin. He was no bargain. Only his thick black hair saved him from being homely. He started to examine his teeth when his mother called from the living room, "What are you doing in there so long, Robert?" Reluctantly, he came out.
His mother was sitting with her small hands resting limply on the arms of the gray overstuffed chair she had finally had recovered last year. Her thin, determined face was tired, he saw, with those familiar deep lines running from her nose to the corners of her thin mouth. She hasn't changed in years, Robert thought. Only her hair is grayer. It was short and neat as if she had just cut and washed it.
But there were those warning lines between her eyes he knew so well, and he told himself he would have to be careful or they would end up fighting again. He took off his jacket and sat down in the corner of the sofa with its plump pillows that were never allowed to be left flattened down for long. Outside in the street, he heard some young fellows laughing loudly as they passed by.
"Where's May?" his mother asked. "I haven't seen her in weeks. Couldn't she come with you?"