Along the Way: Mothering Daughters – by Charlotte Canelli

Charlotte Canelli is the library director at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, MA. Read Charlotte’s column in the May 8, 2014 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

I wasn’t born on Mother’s Day, but every six or seven years, my birthday falls on the holiday. Growing up next door to my best friend (who was born on May 8), we shared a very special week. Mother’s Day fell smack among the six days between our birthdays.

This combination of holidays made May a very special month.  As teenagers, our mothers celebrated with us and as young women we took them out to lunch or dinner, all of us feeling in some way very unique and fortunate.

As a teenagers, we probably took this serendipitous coupling of days for granted.  Had we known how soon we would lose this time to honor each other, we’d probably have treasured the celebrations even more. Both of our mothers died young in their late forties and early fifties just as we were becoming mothers ourselves.

Many books have been written about mothers and daughters in literature, “Little Women” being one of the most notable.  In classics of non-fiction, sociologists and psychologists have concentrated on the mother-daughter bond, many of them focused on simply surviving the relationship.  In 2006, bestselling author Iris Krasnow wrote “I Am My Mother’s Daughter: Making Peace with Mom – Before It’s Too Late.”  In 2002, clinical psychologist Anthony E. Wolf updated his 1992 classic “Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager.”

The mother daughter bond is complicated and sometimes confusing. In the novel “Sing You Home,” Jodi Picoult wrote, “All I know is that I carried you for nine months.  I fed you, I clothed you, I paid for your college education.  Friending me on Facebook seems like a small thing to ask in return.”

Last year I read what will unquestionably be one of my favorite books:  “What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most” (2013) edited by Elizabeth Benedict.  In it, Benedict compiled thirty-one stories of complex mother-daughter love. Each essay is composed by an award-winning novelist, poet, or journalist. Benedict herself writes fondly of a shawl that was given to her by her mother.  Author Lisa See recounts the passion and craft of the art of writing as the gift she received from her mother.   A few more of the authors acknowledge painful connections to their mothers. What makes this book lovely is its magical lens that inspects the joyful, profound and sometimes messy bond between mothers and daughters.

“A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Daughters: Stories that Celebrate a Very Special Bond” (2003), edited by Colleen Sell includes fifty individual stories by writers who share their stories of being a daughter, a mother, or both.  Other collections are “How I Learned to Cook: and Other Writings on Complex Mother-Daughter Relationships” (2004), edited by Margo Perin, and “It’s a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters” (2006), edited by Andrew J. Buchanan.

Perri Klass is a Harvard-educated pediatrician (“Quirky Kids” 2004) who is also the executive medical director of Reach Out and Read, a non-profit that promotes childhood literacy through clinics and doctors’ offices.  She is also a professor of both journalism and pediatrics, a knitter, a novelist, a mother and a daughter.  The 2006 book, “Every Mother is a Daughter: The Neverending Quest for Success, Inner Peace, and a Really Clean Kitchen” is co-written with her mother, Sheila Solomon Klass.  They share their love of reading, motherhood and writing; they also include both recipes and knitting instructions in the combined memoir.  While they profess the inevitable frustration and irritation of the mother-daughter bond, they also assert the comfort, pleasure and respect.

Jaime Morrison Curtis has written two books on motherhood: “Prudent Advice: Lessons for My Baby Daughter” (2010) and “Prudent Advice: Lessons for My Daughter” (2012).  Hundreds of mini-lessons, many of which first appeared on her blog, include such advice that starts with “Sometimes it’s not just about you”, “Don’t be afraid to get lost” or “Live alone for a period of time.” Other lessons deal with learning how to jump-start a car battery or cook squash.

Famous politico Mary Matalin (Republican strategist married to Democrat political-advisor James Carville) has managed to survive a complicated marriage that includes opposing political views and two young daughters. Matalin lost her own mother at the age of 26 and in a series of letters (“Letters to My Daughters” 2004) she urges them to think for themselves and live a moral, ethical life. A decade later, those two daughters are now readying for college.

Past editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, Ruth Reichl has written several bestselling books about her adventures with food (“Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table” 1998 and “Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise” 2005).  She has also written “For You Mom, Finally” (2010), first published as “Not Becoming My Mother and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way” (2009).  Reichl feels that she never really knew her mother, a woman who revealed much unhappiness as she aged.  However, in this memoir, Reichl examines the relationship and realizes, finally, how many sacrifices her mother made so that she, the daughter, would not suffer the same disappointments.

Memoir-writer Kelly Corrigan’s first bestseller is “The Middle Place” (2008), the story about her father, cancer, and love.  Her second book, “Lift” (2010) is a letter to her children written to encourage them to learn to risk and love.  She has come full circle this year with “Glitter and Glue” (2014).  Corrigan’s mother told her that her father (whom she idealized) was the glitter but that it was she, the mother, who was the glue.  It wasn’t until she became an adult that Corrigan realized it was her mother who also deserved her appreciation and respect.

This mother’s day I have the honor of celebrating not just my birthday and motherhood, but I will share in my eldest daughter’s first mother’s day.  As I watch her take the same steps in the mother-daughter journey, I will be sure to arm her with a plethora of books that help her along the way.

If you need help requesting any of these books in the Minuteman Library catalog, please call or visit the Morrill Memorial Library.

 

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