Patti Davis Honors Mothers Of Famous Daughters Women are always daughters. They may or may not become wives, professionals or mothers, but they are always somebody's daughter and wondering what their mother might think of them. On this weekend before Mother's Day, we talk with Patti Davis, daughter of former first lady Nancy Reagan. Host Scott Simon talks with Davis, who's new book is The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us: Prominent Women Discuss the Complex, Humorous, and Ultimately Loving Relationships They Have with Their Mothers.
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Patti Davis Honors Mothers Of Famous Daughters

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Patti Davis Honors Mothers Of Famous Daughters

Patti Davis Honors Mothers Of Famous Daughters

Patti Davis Honors Mothers Of Famous Daughters

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Women are always daughters. They may or may not become wives, professionals or mothers, but they are always somebody's daughter and wondering what their mother might think of them. On this weekend before Mother's Day, we talk with Patti Davis, daughter of former first lady Nancy Reagan. Host Scott Simon talks with Davis, who's new book is The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us: Prominent Women Discuss the Complex, Humorous, and Ultimately Loving Relationships They Have with Their Mothers.

SCOTT SIMON, Host:

Thanks so much for being with us.

PATTI DAVIS: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: Near as I can figure, all of the daughters that talk about their mothers in your book seem to be a bit north of 40.

DAVIS: Yeah, that was deliberate.

SIMON: Okay. What's the reason for that?

DAVIS: You know, I mean if I could choose one word to encapsulate this whole book, it would be acceptance. Every single woman, no matter what their story was with their mother, had come to a place of acceptance.

SIMON: You take a bite of the apple of the Judy Garland story...

DAVIS: Yeah.

SIMON: ...by talking not to the obvious suspect - Liza Minnelli - but Lorna Luft. Being Judy Garland's daughter has to be tough, under any circumstances.

DAVIS: Yeah.

SIMON: Lorna was, you write, at one point she was kind of assigned to dole out her mother's pills.

DAVIS: And at the funeral there were thousands of people (unintelligible) Lorna found herself comforting other people. And I completely related to that because I found myself, when my father died, doing the same thing.

SIMON: In our family, we used to have a picture up on the refrigerator of my wife when she was like a five-year-old girl. And one of our daughters, then three, said who's that? And I said that's mama when she was just a couple of years older than you. And our daughter said, where are you?

DAVIS: Yeah.

SIMON: Because as far as she's concerned, we've always been together, just waiting for our daughters to come around. Do we need to remind ourselves our parents - our mothers specifically - were fully formed people before we ever got here?

DAVIS: Yes. And I think that was, especially the deeper I got into the book, all of these women had - every one of them had already investigated their mother's past, except Whoopi Goldberg, which...

SIMON: She didn't know how old her mother is.

DAVIS: But it was very profound 'cause I was late into the book by the time I - pretty late by the time I interviewed Whoopi. And so I was very aware of how important it is to understand how your mother grew up and what influenced her, and what she brought to the task of mothering.

SIMON: Let me ask you about Julianna Margulies, because she grew up with a mother who was, I think it's safe to say, just not into being mom.

DAVIS: And then when Juliana was already a pretty successful actress and she was back - staying at her mother's house while she was doing a play back East, and she lay down on the couch and she was taking a nap and she woke up and she saw her mother standing at the ironing board, singing. And she went, What are you doing? And her mother holds up this bottle of spray starch or whatever it was and said, Have you tried this? It's fantastic.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DAVIS: And Juliana said, Who are you? And she said, you know, she said, I was so young when I had you girls and I loved you, you know, desperately but I really wasn't ready to be a mother. And I'm ready to be a mother now. And went back to her ironing and her singing.

SIMON: Hmm.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIMON: May I ask, how's your mother doing?

DAVIS: She's doing well. You know, she's 88 and she's had some falls and - but she's well. I mean she gets around.

SIMON: And I make bold to ask this, just because obviously you've written about it in the book. How are you and your mother doing?

DAVIS: We're doing well. You know, if you've had a challenging relationship with your mother, and certainly I have, I think then acceptance is really - really has to be a lifeline. And you know, I was aware recently that I, I kind of thought, well, you know, I've done so much work on this, on processing my history and my relationship with my mother that she's really, you know, she's just stopped trying to push my buttons. But then I kind of backed up a little bit more and really looked at our exchanges and I thought, no, she's actually trying really hard to push my buttons.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DAVIS: It's just that my buttons are not that accessible anymore, you know? You know, my part of the equation has changed, right?

SIMON: Well, maybe that's growing up.

DAVIS: It is growing up. Because the truth of the matter is, the older we get, we don't need to give our mothers that much power over us. We really can grow up.

SIMON: Thanks so much.

DAVIS: Thank you.

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