One-of-a-kind Moms

A mother’s love takes an array of forms, and it shapes the lives of children in a multitude of ways. With Mother’s Day approaching, several writers with The Champion Newspaper shared personal stories about their mothers and mother figures who influenced and continue to influence them during their lifetimes.

Gentle reminders of my mother

My mother was one feisty lady. She was hard-working, honest, caring, loving and accepting of all—and expected the same from her children. She used to tell us on a regular basis “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Our home was always open to anyone and there was always good home-cooked food for anyone who was hungry. She wasn’t Italian but would not-so-gently encourage all who entered our home to sit for a while and eat.
She rarely said a disparaging word against anyone and on the rare occasions that her children did or said something she did not approve of, she gave us the finger. Not the middle finger, that would have been far beneath her, but her index finger—she wagged it so that no words were necessary. We knew if the waving index finger was pointed in our direction that we better straighten up quickly.
My mother died years ago and is missed on regular basis, particularly on Mother’s Day and other major holidays. Holidays were wonderful times in that old country house with 40-50 immediate family members eating, joking and remembering holidays past. But all of that has now changed. The family rarely gets together as all have made new traditions with their own families.
However, I have what I consider to be a second mother, my dear aunt Jeanette, who is my mother’s younger sister—and she, too, will give me that finger if I get out of line in any way. If I say anything that she doesn’t approve of, the right hand is raised immediately as she waves that finger in my direction and gives me a look of disapproval, I know immediately that I have been reprimanded.
At 60 years old, I can still be put in my place. All it takes is a wagging finger from a dear lady. I’m grateful to have the memories of my mother’s subtle gesture and I know my aunt’s finger waving is the love of a mother figure.

– John Hewitt



Young Derek Smith with his mother Cathy Smith.

Mom defies doctors and believes in my potential


When I was born, doctors told my mom that I would likely never walk, talk or lead a normal life, but my mom didn’t listen. I was born two months premature and diagnosed with cerebral palsy. My mom took me to every hospital she could find that might be able to help. She made sure I walked and talked, and she researched and found surgeries that helped me live as normal a life as possible. Despite traveling hundreds of miles and spending months in hospitals being poked and prodded, I remember being a pretty happy child. My mom always knew how to put a smile on my face. To this day, even with almost half the country between us, we still talk on the phone once or twice a week. She wants to know every detail of every day, and she tells me all about hers. She’s always supported me, through my greatest successes and worst failures. She’s my biggest cheerleader and my best friend, and she taught me to believe in the impossible.

– Derek Smith



Mom knows best once again

I can honestly say I am where I am today because of my mother, Dr. Norma G. Parker.
I am a sports journalist partially because of my mother. When I enrolled in college, I selected electronic engineering as my major. Although I hate math and science, I selected that major because I knew I would get a career with a high salary.
I quickly discovered that choosing a career based on salary alone was a bad idea. Midway through my sophomore year, I was failing a couple of classes and ready to drop out of college. When I told my mom—who is an educator with multiple college degrees—that I wanted to leave school, she told me without hesitation that dropping out wasn’t an option.
“You need to figure out what you want to do—what your passion is—and find a career that fits your passion,” she said.
While this conversation was taking place, my family and I were also watching a televised Atlanta Falcons game. They were playing at Tampa Bay, and sideline reporter Pam Oliver appeared on the screen giving her report.
That’s when my mom suggested that I should be the next Pam Oliver.
“You love sports, you love talking about sports, so try that as a career,” she said.
I immediately said “no” because I hate being in front of the camera and I’m not a good public speaker. But she knew and felt in her spirit that sports journalism was the career for which I was destined.
After much thought and prayer on my part, I made the decision to change my major from electronic engineering to mass communications. I decided to focus on print journalism because I was a decent writer at the time.
Soon after, I hit the ground running—from taking photos at sporting events for the school’s newspaper my junior year to becoming sports and managing editor by graduation. And I’m now an award-winning sports writer with The Champion Newspaper.
Just like other mothers and daughters, we’ve had our ups and downs and butted heads a few times, but I thank God every day for selecting Dr. Norma G. Parker to be my mother.

– Carla Parker



Bessie Simmons, left, with her daughter Kathy Mitchell.

Wind beneath our wings

One of the greatest gifts a mother can give a daughter is being an excellent living example. It’s a gift I’m delighted my mother gave me. Through numerous beautiful examples, she taught me unconditional love. She taught me to be supportive without being intrusive, to be understanding and forgiving while taking no foolishness.
Being an excellent mother starts with being an excellent woman. I have seen my mother, who is now approaching her 94th birthday, be a kind and giving daughter to her own mother, a loving and supportive wife to my dad and to her second husband, a fountain of encouragement to family in good times and bad, a trustworthy and never-failing source of wisdom and kindness for her many friends and a tireless worker in her church and community.
My dad died when I was 14, leaving my mother to rear, in addition to me, a daughter just entering college and another still in elementary school. Her daughters became a lawyer, a writer and a doctor. While she never pushed us toward a particular path, she buttressed and championed the choices we made—she has always been the wind beneath our wings.

– Kathy Mitchell


Still leading by example

My mother has been inspiring me all my life, mostly in a subtle kind of way, leading by example. I learned the importance of hard work, kindness and generosity as well as a love for the arts and a passion for travel.
My mom learned to sew from her mother, and she passed the skill on to my sister and I. While we were growing up she made almost every one of our coats, dresses, suits, pajamas and robes. She even made my prom dress and my first wedding dress. She was talented enough to be a seamstress in New York City, and at one time taught tailoring to men.
My mother, Jennie Campbell, is 92 now and lives on her own in Tucker. While she uses a walker and has arthritis in her hands, she still sews occasionally.
Last year while I was in Dubai, I purchased a beautiful piece of fabric rich in burgundy and gold that I thought she could use as a wrap or table drape or maybe make pillows out of it. I was shocked when I stopped by her condo recently and she showed me that fabric transformed into a beautiful jacket. She relied on her imagination, her years of experience and her love of sewing to make it come about despite she challenges she encountered working with the material.
I was amazed and delighted by her accomplishment as well as her obvious pride in the garment.
Once again, she taught me a life lesson. She showed me that despite age, diminishing strength and energy, one can still find joy dreaming, having a can-do spirit, being patient in the creative process and working with one’s hands.
It’s a lesson I fully embrace, thanks Mom.

– Gale Horton Gay

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