The billions of thank yous I owe Mom

This is a column I wrote in 1997 with the Jacksonville Daily News — published on Mother’s Day, May 11. I’m still thanking my Mom, by the way.


My mother was a journalist. She was apparently pretty good at it too. At least the North Carolina Press Association thought so. They gave her an award in the early 1950s for feature writing. For years one of my primary career goals was to be similarly honored, just to keep up.

Mom wins press award

When it happened, however, I was still further behind than a donkey entered in the Kentucky Derby.

Yet I never thought much about my mother as a journalist until I enrolled at Guilford College, where she spent two years before heading to the University of North Carolina. Back then, women couldn’t go to Chapel Hill as freshmen. Apparently there was some fear they would be corrupted by the alleged football played at Kenan Stadium.

Anyway, soonn after arriving on the pristine campus of Guilford, I encountered an aging and incredibly strict English professor who graduated from teh WACs and went straight to Grammar Boot Camp. She was more feared than closing time at the beer store.

“I see your mother’s Barbara Tuttle,” she said. “Is she still writing?”

I shook my head no. There wasn’t much to add. At least 30 years had passed since Mildred Marlette, the English teacher in question had even seen my mother. Her statement told me Mom must have writing talents much greater than I ever imagined.

This was because Mom put away journalism when she married and decided to spring tiny offs like myself. She put away her career because of nighttime hours, weekend shifts and interviews far from her office. She still consumed bad coffee by the bucket, though.

She swapped a career for a job, only a job — one that was close enough to home to keep an eye on her two rambunctious youngsters and flexible enough to be there when we rambunked too much and the school principal called for a chat.

I never thanked her for that.

Thanks Mom. I don’t know where I’d be today without such a sacrifice, which gave you millions of things to do on my behalf for which I have also never given proper gratitude.

For example, I never thanked my mother for changing my diapers, which I imagined she had to do often. This is mainly because it’s the type of task for which my father had no fondness and not one inclination to do it.

Thanks mom. I don’t know where I would be today if this essential function were not performed, but it is doubtful I would be accepted readily into polite society, not to mention Walmart.

And I never thanked my mother for delivering me, amid great wailing mind you, into the clutches of any number of sinister physicians, vaccine-enthusiasts and tooth fillers during a routine day.And thanks for taking me to Mayberry Ice Cream Shop after all was said, done, probed and inoculated where I would consume a pimiento cheese sandwich simply because that’s what I wanted.

Thanks Mom. I was leery of you then but I don’t know where I would be today should Ihave missed those painful and angst-ridden sessions, but it is a given that I might suffer from some form of communicable disease and would subsist solely on mashed yeast.

I never thanked my mother for the billions of times her answer was “no” when quite plainly I yearned for it to be “yes.” “You’ll thank me for this later,” she said billions of times.

Thanks Mom. Thanks Mom. Thanks Mom … it’s still a long way from the billions I need to catch up, but I’ll get there.

I promise.



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