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A legacy for mothers and daughters
That intense love mixed with worry that my mom exuded is something I know now on a gut level.
-Rae Meadows

by Rae Meadows

Even when my first novel was about an escort service in Salt Lake City, my mom has always been the most devoted supporter of my writing and my life. Unlike many mothers and daughters, we have had a remarkably unfraught relationship, one that has evolved into a mature and dear friendship in my adulthood.

But as I wrote my latest novel, "Mothers and Daughters," I wondered, 'How much do we really know about our mothers, and how much do we want to know?' Like most of us, busy, with the day-to-day of our lives, it wasn't often that I asked my mom questions about her life before I came along.

My mom is a beautiful 81. As I worked on characters in my writing, I wondered what it would be like to see my mom as a young woman. Even though I have heard a lot of stories about her life, there is an endless supply of things I don't know.

Here is a woman, a painter, a health nut, a free spirit, who when she first got married, had to quit her teaching job immediately. She would get all dressed up-complete with her hair set, heels and lipstick-and greet my dad at the door with his cocktail when he arrived home from work. As a daughter, I found this a poignant window into a woman fully of her generation, who found her voice-herself-later in life.

I think it's often true that having children gives us greater insight into, and empathy for, our mothers. It did for me. That intense love mixed with worry that my mom exuded is something I know now on a gut level. She had breast cancer when her daughters were ages 8, 5 and 3. I don't think I fully understood what strength and courage this required until I became a mother.

As I get older, I have come to appreciate that my mom found joy in the everyday, a woman of unfailing optimism. Although this way of being does not always come easily to me, I find it inspiring. It makes me think about what my own daughters will get from me.

As a writer, I explored the idea of legacy for three generations of women, what it means for them to be both daughters and mothers. And in so doing, I found a few answers for myself.

Rae Meadows is the author of three novels, most recently "Mothers and Daughters," released in paperback as "Mercy Train." She lives in Minneapolis. raemeadows.com

Rae Meadows recommends these books by women authors with a mother-and-daughter theme:
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Unless by Carol Shields
Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
Anne Sexton: A Biography by Diane Middlebrook
Home by Marilynne Robinson

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