From generation to generation. The myth that we become our mothers can be infuriating, but in some ways it’s true. Daughters shape their own lives while mothers watch their daughters grow into beautiful young women. Wrinkles begin to map the mothers’ faces, the power lines of age and wisdom.
Then one day the daughter grows into a woman. When she reaches her mother’s age, she realizes what her mother saw and felt, and while she is certainly not her mother, she is looking at life from the same vantage point. A mother’s life, thoughts, experiences, what she makes of the world, are something for the young daughter to discover when she, too, reaches that age.
The mothers and daughters we interviewed share their thoughts on working together. Not only have they maintained close relationships, but they have imparted wisdom to one another.
Marynell and Michelle Maloney
Marynell Maloney Law Firm, PLLC
While Marynell Maloney was in Dallas on a seven-week medical malpractice trial, her grandson learned how to walk. That may be one reason why “it all started out with me telling my kids, ‘Don’t become lawyers. Be an artist, a philosopher, a thinker.’” Even as Marynell sat with her 34-year-old daughter, Michelle, in the rarefied quiet of their office on a Saturday afternoon, both of their phones silently buzzed. “So of course we all became lawyers, all three of us,” said Michelle. “I graduated from law school six years ago and moved to San Antonio and have pretty much been working nonstop ever since.”
“Day and night,” adds Marynell, who has been practicing law for 34 years.
The Maloneys practice personal injury law. “They’re very sad cases that involve horrific loss, and so if you don’t have some kind of family support system in place, then it gets very emotionally draining, besides just time and effort,” says Michelle. Marynell found San Antonio by accident. She was raised in Costa Rica by her mother, a teacher, and her father, a farmer who experimented with organic agricultural products. She wanted to be a writer or an “endless student,” but then she met Michelle’s father in a philosophy class at UT. He came from a family of lawyers, and Marynell “fell into” the field of law. “It’s fascinating, it’s intellectually stimulating, it’s challenging,” she says. “You feel like you can really make a difference sometimes and do some good, but it’s a very hard, intense way to live a life.” Becoming a lawyer turns out to be a form of being an endless student, after all, and an exercise in existential philosophy. “You have to learn as much medicine — not like you could do it — but all of the literature, all of the terminology, how it’s all supposed to work, or they’ll walk all over you. You can’t be effective if you don’t study it deeply,” explains Marynell. “We do talk about philosophy together,” says Michelle. “Dealing with horrific, senseless tragedies all the time really prompts one to philosophize.”
“And to look for humor, because the rest of the time can be pretty dark,” adds Marynell, who has learned, through their cases, to “appreciate the brevity of life and the ability to be together.” While growing up, Michelle watched her mother in trials and worked in the office during the summers. She used her natural writing talent to write the biographies and factual scenarios used in mediation or settlement brochures. “You have to make everyone involved in litigation understand that these are real people with real lives, real tragedies,” she says. “You can’t just say ‘I’m sad,’” says Marynell. “You have to say, ‘how did this dramatically change my life?’” which, Michelle explains, can be hard to articulate. When dealing with their clients, both women share the skill of walking the line between assertiveness and compassion. Both have the instincts to read human nature. “It was very inspiring for me to see someone who so defied a specific gender role, someone who was very assertive but could also be very sweet,” says Michelle. “The idea that women were weak didn’t ever come into our worldview, and when those concepts did, it was such a shock because it was the opposite of how we had been raised.
“I just had a trial that ended a week and half ago, and it involved the death of a mother,” continues Michelle. “Her daughter was on the stand. She was talking about how her life has changed as a result of what had happened to her mother (which was just atrocious), and she said, ‘Everywhere I go, I see people with their mothers, and I want to walk up to them and say, “Hug them, tell them that you love them today, don’t get into that little fight about something that doesn’t matter because you could lose them.’”
“It’s a compromise, and it’s always challenging,” said Marynell, about raising kids with a demanding job. “I think in the end the kids ended up having a lot of drive that resulted from how hard I worked. I’m torn when I see Michelle working this hard. Did I set a bad example?”
“But you also created an environment in which my son can come to work,” said Michelle, referring to the nursery the Maloneys have at their office for their employees to use. “It’s always going to be a choice, but I’m glad it’s a choice that we have to be able to make.”
Cindy and Andrea Rodriguez
Chalet’s signature pink and white stripes evoke shopping fantasies of buying new makeup and enjoying even the packaging, applying a new lipstick for the first time or putting your freshly pedicured feet into a chic pair of sandals. Floral bathing suits, colorful sheer shirts and playful iridescent glasses radiate Beverly Hills glamour. This is a store about accessorizing, adding the details to complete your look at poolside and parties. The owners, Cindy Rodriguez and her 24-year-old daughter, Andrea, know exactly what they are doing. They developed this skin care and clothing store concept after learning from a legend. Cindy’s mother, Sue Holland, owned Merle Norman stores in the Rio Grande Valley for over 50 years. “Hers was always one of the top stores in the nation. I basically grew up in the store, literally. In kindergarten I would come and take my naps and beg to wait on customers.” Today, Cindy’s 87-year-old mother remains an elegant woman who loves to dance. Cindy and Andrea run two Chalet stores with an affiliated online ecommerce site, as well as two Merle Norman stores. They are in the process of launching their new skin care line, with the goal of introducing the products into other boutiques and teaching others how to make profit centers out of cosmetics. “We almost feel like everything in our life has led us up to this point. This is what we’re supposed to be doing,” said Cindy.
After college Cindy became a CPA. While raising her son and two daughters, she took classes until she earned her master’s in counseling. She volunteered for two years at the Rape Crisis Center, dealing with major trauma. Then, when Andrea was in junior school, Cindy decided to open a Merle Norman store in North Star Mall, and she added clothing to the inventory. Andrea majored in product development at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles and recently returned to help her mother run the business. She designs the skin care line’s look books, boxes and labels and has done all of the marketing. “I think the edge we have with our line is that really great sweet spot between quality and reasonable price,” says Andrea, who works with trend forecasting for their product’s placement and timing. Their lotions, makeup, washes, serums and other products feature the latest in technology, but they are cruelty-free and paraben-free. Cindy explains what she learned from her mother’s stores: “It was important to make sure everyone was really well trained. The goal is to sit clients down and find the right products for them, and with all those years of hands-on, you know what products work well for what skin types, what are the ingredients.
“We’re in the self-esteem business,” she goes on to say. “What I learned is that you can make somebody so incredibly happy and boost their day so much faster with a makeover. That’s the other thing that was passed down to us — basically the three generations — was my mother always took time for herself. It was almost her ritual, her prayer time, in the mornings with her makeup; nobody would rush her.”
Tiffany Searls remembers Kaye Sheppard Taylor
At Bygones furniture consignment store on NW Military, I perch on the edge of a plush couch with Tiffany Searls. We are in a massive showroom with countless vignettes of furniture arrangements. A grandfather clock chimes the hour in its nostalgic, graceful tones, and I feel like I am in a collage of houses from both past and present. Searls opened this location of Bygones with her mother, Kaye Sheppard Taylor, eight years ago. Taylor passed away unexpectedly in May 2014, at age 73. “I’d give anything to hear her call my name across the store,” said Searls. “We’d always bounce things off each other…It’d be uncanny how often we’d hit the same price on the dime, just because we’d worked together.” Taylor opened her first Bygones location on Broadway in 1991. That location is still open and is being run by Searls’ brother. With her strong work ethic and dedication to the business, Taylor set a powerful example for Searls and her siblings. She was a single mother who raised three children while balancing the constant demands of an entrepreneur.
Searls started working for her mother in 1993, while she was still in college. She received a degree in public relations, but returned to work at Bygones when she graduated and has been there ever since. “I knew very quickly that that was what I wanted to do. I fell right into it,” she says. Now Searls continues the legacy, and her 6- and 10-year-old sons often come to the store after school. Searls laughs when she remembers them as toddlers behind the counter in their playpen, learning from their mother and grandmother. “She’s taught me so many things. I want to pass that on,” says Searls, describing how her son will say, “I pulled a Kaye Taylor today, meaning, he said one of the little things that mom used to say. Tons of people have her sayings.” Taylor was raised in a strict family with a father who was a Baptist deacon and the owner of Sheppard and Sons Ironworks. She inherited his business acumen and people skills. Searls remembers her mother telling her about a conversation she had with her father about opening her business: He said, “Well, Kaye, are you going to think fast nickels or slow dimes?’ My mom thought about it and said, ‘I think I’ll think fast nickels,’ and he said, ‘It’s always worked for me.’ So my mom used that all the time.”
Taylor forged a partnership with her daughter that allowed them to play on each other’s strengths. Searls did the furniture previews, while Taylor used her interior design skills to arrange the inventory. “Mother was an amazing woman. She was a teacher without a classroom. Everything she knew she wanted to pass on,” says Searls. Taylor had been a real estate broker in Fort Worth, but when interest rates rose during the Carter presidency, she switched to furniture consignment. Searls recalls, “She took the two things she knew most, her design background and love of furniture, and put them together and started merchandising furniture instead of houses.” Searls was diagnosed in 2013 with Stage 2 breast cancer. Taylor bought her wigs and hats to keep up her spirits. Searls remembers, “I never once let her see me bawl. That sounds so shallow, but she said, ‘You can’t understand what it’s like to see your child sick.’ As long as I put on my wig and got dressed and put on makeup, it’s like it was OK. I would go to chemo like I was going to work. “We’ve always been best friends, always….that’s a special relationship,” says Searls. “Not many people could work with their mom and be that close. Even though I lost her at 43, some people don’t have that in a lifetime. So I cherish that I had that, and I hope I instill that in my kids.”