The collected wisdom of our mothers, ourselves

July 09, 1996|By SUSAN REIMER

SHE CAUGHT SIGHT of her reflection in a moonlit window as she comforted her colicky first child and saw not just herself, but also the reflection of a woman looking over her shoulder.

Sherry Conway Appel knew it was a trick of light, but she allowed herself to think that her mother, dead a year and unavailable for child-care advice or midnight solace, might indeed be with her in those trying hours -- reflected not in a patio door, but in herself and the kind of mother she would be.

It has been 12 years and another baby -- Leah is no longer colicky and has been joined by Charlie, 8 -- and Appel has collected, and recollected, the wisdom of her mother and many other mothers in "From Mother to Daughter: Advice and Lessons for a Good Life."

A slim volume no bigger than the hand of comfort her mother might have offered, it is one of those collections of meditations popular among busy women whose reading habits have been reduced by the demands of home and work to bite-sized pieces and stolen moments.

Comprised of proverbs, hints from Heloise, old wives' tales and eternal truths, "From Mother to Daughter" causes you to dust off your own mother's advice to you ("It is as easy to love a rich man as a poor one") and to make mental lists of the things you must tell your own daughter ("Don't put your bras in the dryer").

Appel, director of public affairs for the National Governors' Association, lives in Upper Marlboro with Leah, Charlie and her husband, Allen, an author whose earlier book, "From Father to Son," was the impetus for this book. It is now in its second printing, and the responses she has received from women will likely produce a second volume of tender advice.

"The reactions to our books were different, I think," Sherry said from her office in Washington. Allen works out of their home, greets the kids after school and has dinner on the table each night.

"I think the reaction he got was men saying, 'Boy, I'm glad you did this. I didn't get this from my dad, and it will help me raise my son.' Or he got, 'I'm glad someone is finally noticing what we have to give.' "

But women, she said, expressed gratitude for the tribute this book pays to their own mothers and for the opportunity for sharing memories with their mothers that it presents.

"From Mother to Daughter" is full of the stand-on-your-own-two-feet messages that we modern mothers with our latent feminism think we invented. How do we think we got this far except with our own mothers' warning that we must be self-reliant or with her example of what might happen if we are not?

Advice such as this:

"Trust yourself."

"Always treat people as if they may someday be on your jury."

"You are known by the company you keep."

"When you fall, pick up something while you're down there."

"You pass this way but once. Any good you can do, do it now."

"If you don't think well of yourself, no one will think anything of you."

"Learn to do things for yourself (sew a button, change the oil), but always appreciate someone's offer to do it for you."

"Make up your mind. If you try to sit between two seats, you're going to end up on the ground."

"Stand up straight, shoulders back, chest out."

"If you're always depending on men, you're always going to be disappointed."

"Act like the winner when you lose."

"If you're going to complain, always complain to the person who can help you."

"From Mother to Daughter" will stir memories of what your mother tried to teach you.

"Never put a jar or a bottle on the table at mealtime."

"When in doubt about what to do, bake a cake."

And it will cause you to think about what you should teach your daughter:

"Be brave. Timid people never amount to much."

Pub Date: 7/09/96

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