Family

Strong and Mysterious Mother-Daughter Bond

Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, like the rest of us, enjoyed and endured a unique relationship

Passing away just one day after her own daughter, Debbie Reynolds was felled by an apparent stroke on Wednesday. Now, poignantly, mother and daughter are together again.

Debbie Reynolds’ son, Todd Fisher, told Variety about the sudden loss of his mother: “She went to be with Carrie.”

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The mother-daughter bond is strong and mysterious. I don’t have a daughter, but I am a daughter. My mother and I are close in so many ways — we laugh at the same things, we are horrified by the same things, our smile is exactly the same. I can start laughing in my mother’s presence and I only need a word or two to let my mother know what memory I am recalling — and she starts laughing, too.

About an hour after my first son was born, she saw me in the hospital hallway (she and my dad had mistakenly taken the elevator right down to the delivery rooms and were wandering around with to-go coffee, opening OR doors, looking for me). Her eyes were glued to mine.

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I propped up on one elbow on my gurney. “Did you see him?” I said excitedly, meaning my new son — her grandson. Her eyes filled with tears and she nodded. Later, she said, “You were focused on your baby, and I was focused on mine.”

Life’s roads are much more easily traveled with the other at our side.

Carrie Fisher and her mother had reportedly endured a 10-year estrangement, and Fisher wrote her hit book “Postcards From the Edge” about the strains of living with a famous mother. (It was later made into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine.) Some mothers and daughters drive each other crazy.

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“I didn’t understand my own mother until I was a lot older — her worries about me, my brothers and sisters,” one Massachusetts woman with seven siblings told LifeZette. “Now that I have kids, I see that what came out as anger was really just worry, and exhaustion, too. It separated me from my mother as a younger woman, because I didn’t know how to handle it — the intensity of it. But now I see that she was our glue. Even her anger kept us together, united against it.”

Mothers see all that their children can be — and love who they are, too. Where someone sees weeds, they see roses. My mother has a mirror in her bedroom that I’ve always loved. It’s a vertical row of mirrored tiles she stuck to the wall back in the ’70s, that together make up a full-length mirror. I look better in it than in any other mirror in my family home — the place I grew up, where my parents still live.

“Why do I look better in this mirror?” I said to my mom recently, laughing. She smiled from the chair where she was sitting, and I suddenly thought of all the times through the decades that I have checked my appearance in this same mirror, as she and I talked.

It’s not the mirror that makes me look and feel better — it’s my mother. I feel competent, and pretty, and cherished in her presence. My mother is the magic of the mirror.

No one can explain the mysteries of those who are close and who die just days or even hours apart. But mother-daughter duo Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher seem to have shared many traits: strength, determination, and an uncanny ability to rise above even the most devastating of problems, including addiction issues for Fisher and multiple instances of financial ruin for Reynolds.

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“If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable,” Fisher noted in her book, hit play, and HBO special, “Wishful Drinking.”

Underneath the Hollywood glamour — away from the lights, the fans, the fame, the glory — Reynolds and Fisher were just two women negotiating their bond, like all us other mothers and daughters. Rest in peace, Debbie and Carrie. May your passing remind all us mothers and daughters to stop and appreciate the gift of one another — life’s roads are so much more easily traveled with the other at our side.

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