Since I’ve been back in Mississippi I’ve been thinking about the past a little more than I used to, and in a different light. Having kids has also changed my perspective, too. My mother and I aren’t close, but as I get older I realize more and more the ways she has shaped my life for the better. I modeled myself after her in ways I wasn’t even aware of until recently. In many ways, she’s been a great role model.
She made me strong and independent, both by circumstance and by example. I didn’t have a perfect upbringing, but it made me strong. That strength helped me hew out a life of my own, and still helps me every day. She was strong and self determined, so I grew up the same way. That was a gift. I could not have accomplished what I have without that strength, and it came from her.
She gave me a strong work ethic. She has worked as long as I’ve known her. She was never a stay-at-home mom. That was normal to me and I never had a problem with it. I watched her pour herself into her work (radio sales back then), and I knew she was really good at it. It never occurred to me that I might not be able to succeed because I was female, because I watched her do it every day. I don’t mind hard work and my career is built on it. She taught me that, again by example.
She gave me freedom to screw up. And I did screw up, a lot. But I also learned, and managed to make some good choices along the way, ones that have brought me to where I am today. She didn’t micromanage my life. I’m good (but not perfect) at running my own life because I’ve been doing it since I was a teenager.
She had my back. When she felt I needed it, she’d go to bat for me. I didn’t always like my home then, but it was always there for me. Even now, if I were stranded in Albuquerque and needed bus fare back, I think I could call her collect at 3am and she’d wire it to me. She has also helped others in need over the years, which is an honorable thing.
She didn’t allow me to pick up a drawl. She was as responsible for that as Nanna and Pop-Pop. That small detail shaped my entire life.
She gave me a career path without even knowing it. Maybe it’s genetic, who knows? She worked at WJQS 1400-AM Country Gold when I was very young, and it fascinated me. I still have a soft spot for local radio, especially from back then. Growing up, it was the coolest thing in the world to go see her work radio remotes and hear her on-air. Even at home, I’d listen to JQS on the big console radio tuner/turntable in the living room, sitting through country songs to hear the spot breaks. And when I was really young, maybe seven years old or so, she brought me in to the station to cut a radio spot for Harrison’s Ringworm Lotion. Growing up around radio, it was natural that I would eventually get sucked into it myself, and I did.
She gave me the best writing advice I ever received. When I was in elementary school, I had to write a book report and I was stumped about how to do it. She told me, “just tell about what you read”, and left me alone to do it. So simple, yet so profound. That’s exactly what I did and it worked. Even now, when I’m overwhelmed by a writing project, I tell myself those words and it helps every time.
She is a good cook. I remember homemade lasagna and pork chop casserole and crab casserole in particular. They were delicious, and I enjoyed being in the house when she was cooking. She was a card-carrying member of the Cheese-of-the-Month Club, a foodie before there was such a term, so I learned to be one, too. She didn’t mind if I cooked, so I taught myself how to bake fairly young. I taught Joey to bake, too, and now he can make an apple pie from scratch that is easily better than any I have made.
She had Silvia. She’s wonderful, a gift, and I’m so glad she’s my sister.
I wanted to acknowledge and recognize some of the positive ways she has influenced my life. I thank her for that.