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Sat May 11, 2013
Arts & Life

Mini-Memoirs: 6-Word Stories To Honor Mom

Originally published on Sun May 12, 2013 7:48 am

This Mother's Day, think about the relationship you have with your mother. Now consider: Could you tell that story in just six words?

The newspaper The Forward recently put out a call for six-word memoirs about mothers — specifically, Jewish mothers. The submissions they received show that you can pack a lot of emotion into a half-dozen words, like in Jennifer Glick's memoir: "Mother, our lady of perpetual dissatisfaction."

Larry Smith — editor of SMITH magazine, which is home of the six-word memoir project — came up with the idea for the call-out. He and The Forward chose some of the best responses and published them Friday. Forward's Editor-in-Chief Jane Eisner joins NPR's Scott Simon to share some of her favorites, starting with this sentence by Ari VanderWalde: "Strong, independent rethinker of tuna casserole."

Food came up quite frequently in the "momoirs." Laura Rosen wrote of her mother, Dora Rosen: "Forced me to eat gefilte fish."

Mixed or complicated emotions were another theme of the entries. Karyn Gershon of Wilmette, Ill., wrote, "Unconditional love but hates my outfit." Another entry read, "I love you, but it's complicated.

"I do think that you see the stereotype writ large, this love but also very high expectations, a certain facility with guilt," Eisner says. "Look, I'm a Jewish mother, so I can understand how complicated this can be."

Eisner's own mother died a few years ago, and Eisner says her six-word memoir would be a message to her: "I didn't slip on the leaves."

"I have this very strong memory of going to school in the morning and my mom exhorting me and my sister not to slip on the leaves," Eisner explains. "For many decades I thought that was kind of ridiculous, until of course I became a mother myself. And I also remember standing at the doorway when my older girls were going off to school and I found myself saying, 'Don't slip on the leaves!' "

Her second six-word submission?

"Oh, dear. I've become my mother."

How would you sum up your mom in six words? You can write your memoir in the comments below, or send us a tweet using the hashtag #nprmoms.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Jewish mothers are like all others. They love their children without reservation and want them to be safe, well fed and happy. They also know how to make their children feel guilty. Now I'm not sure Jewish mothers are more accomplished at that than Irish, Asian, Salvadoran, or Viking mothers, but there sure have been a lot of books and movies about Jewish mothers and the children who love them.

But could you tell one of those stories in six words? Like: Mother, our lady of perpetual dissatisfaction. The Forward newspaper recently put out a call for six-word memoirs about Jewish mothers. Many of the best responses were published yesterday, including that one by Jennifer Glick. The Forward's editor-in-chief, Jane Eisner, joins us from New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

JANE EISNER: It's my pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: Can you tell us a few of your favorites?

EISNER: I think my favorite is: Strong, independent, re-thinker of tuna casserole.

(LAUGHTER)

EISNER: We did get a lot of food. One of them came from Laura Rosen in New York City about her mother, Doris Rosen: Forced me to eat gefilte fish.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: There are people who like gefilte fish in this world, but all right. Here's one, Karyn Gershon of Wilmette, Illinois: Unconditional love but hates my outfit.

EISNER: Yes, that was also one of my favorites.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Did you find a few themes coming up time and again?

EISNER: Well, we did. You know, as one person wrote in: I love you but it's complicated. I do think that you see the stereotype writ large, this love but also very high expectations. Look, you know, I'm a Jewish mother, so I understand how complicated this can be.

SIMON: Have you written one for your mother?

EISNER: Well, you know, I was thinking about it and my mother died a few years ago. I think if I could talk to her now, I would say I didn't slip on the leaves, because I have this very strong memory of going to school in the morning and my mom exhorting me and my sister not to slip on the leaves. And for many decades I thought that was kind of ridiculous until of course I became a mother myself and I also remember standing at the doorway when my older girls were going off to school and I found myself saying don't slip on the leaves. And so my second six-word memoire would be: Oh dear, I've become my mother.

SIMON: That's a good one. Jane Eisner, editor-in-chief of The Forward, speaking from New York. Thanks so much for being with us and Happy Mother's Day.

EISNER: Oh, you're welcome.

SIMON: You can share your own six-word Mother's Day memoir at our website, npr.org or Tweet it #nprmoms.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: This is NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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