The last time I wrote about reaching out to you was five years ago, just after reading your book “Shockaholic.” I did a review of your book for this newspaper, mentioning what we specifically had in common—long-deceased Jewish-Communist relatives and being adult children of song-and-dance mavens, and what we didn’t—cocaine habits, marriages to Paul Simon, and roles in Star Wars. I had written how despite our differences, I had felt a kinship with you as a fellow middle-aged female writer with issues and an edge, and was hoping we could meet, maybe at the Coffee Beanery on Pico Boulevard, on my next trip to Los Angeles.
You never got back to me, which was no surprise. What was a surprise was hearing from your mother, Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds. Some months after “Let’s Do Coffee, Cousin Carrie” appeared in print, I received a cream-colored note in a cream-colored envelope with a green-embossed North Hollywood return address. In clear and well-formed cursive script, your mother thanked me for the article I had written about you. She also told me about your performance schedule and that in short, you were busy touring with your one-woman show.
Although I was kind of shocked and awed to receive a personal note from Debbie Reynolds, I was not at all shocked to learn that it had happened because of my mother, Faith Brown.
Mom, who once shared an aunt and uncle with your father, Eddie Fisher, albeit from opposite sides of the family tree, has been a loyal supporter and champion of my writing ever since I racked up my first publication credit, about being a stay-at-home mother, back in the 1980s.
“You’ll get other articles published now, you’ll see,” Mom had told me. She turned out to be not only right, but also thrilled whenever a personal essay or a book review of mine was published online or better yet, in print.
She also began carrying around pieces of my work to show friends and semi-strangers at synagogue events or Hadassah luncheons or to those around the pool during the winter vacations that she and my father have spent in south Florida.
Although I was both pleased and amused that Mom often brought my latest articles to Florida with her, I was still astonished to learn that, during that particular winter, she had taken the “Shockaholic” review with her not only to the pool, but also to the next kvelling level. After finding out that Debbie Reynolds would be performing in nearby Plantation, Mom was determined to pass the article along. She had my father drive her to the venue, where she asked one of the program staff to deliver the article to your mom, along with a note that she wanted to share this clipping as “mother-to-mother.” She also included my address.
Who knew that your mother would a) get the article, b) read it, and c) respond not only to me, but also to my mother? As soon as I received the creamy, sweet note from your mother, I called Mom, who told me that she had also gotten one. We each read our notes aloud, laughing, and savoring our shared, star-powered, mother-daughter moment.
I put the note in my “letters” file, and didn’t look at it again until a few months after seeing you in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but before learning that your mother had received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2016 Oscars. What struck me in re-reading her words this time was not just her good manners and good handwriting, but that she seemed very proud of you, something I hadn’t thought about when I first received her note. What also struck me was how lucky I have been to have a mother who is such a persistent and proud fan of my work.
Carrie, as you and I both know, the mother-daughter relationship can be complicated, as captured in such daughterly driven non-fiction as “My Mother, Myself,” or novels such as “Where Did You Go, Bernadette?” or your own “Postcards from the Edge” — as well as in the knife-to-the-heart first line in the poem, “For My Mother,” by former Poet Laureate Louise Gluck: “It was better when we were together in one body.”
And it’s not surprising that, like most mothers and daughters, Mom and I have had our struggles. But fortunately, thanks to love, humor, and maturity, we’ve been good for awhile. It seems like you and your mom have, too. Or as you said about her, in the Acknowledgements to “Shockaholic,” “Mama … there are no words. However, there are a few dance moves.“
Which brings me to why I am writing to you again. Since we haven’t yet been able to have the coffee date, how about if I treat you and our still-proud, still-beautiful, 80-something mothers to brunch on Mother’s Day? Maybe go to The Milky Way, run by Steven Spielberg’s mom?
I know that the cheese blintzes are expensive, but they are supposed to be good. And that particular setting might be conducive to discussing a motherlode of topics, such as how great it was that you pushed back against the haters’ comments on your appearance as General Leia Organa, or how it feels to be a woman of a certain age who was once beautiful or at least pretty damn cute, or most of all, how, because of you and your mom, my relationship with my mother has become even richer and sweeter than a slice of Mama Spielberg’s cheesecake.
Either way, though, could you just please give your mother my best?
Thanks again, and happy Mother’s Day,
Marla Brown Fogelman is a freelance writer in Silver Spring, Maryland.