“Color Us Connected Delves Deep” is a headline that I hope motivates you to read further and get to know me and Amy as we are getting to know each other.
Our series, “Color Us Connected” is a column by two women of different races and distant zip codes. I confess that I am the other half of this duo. I met my blogging partner when our towns formed a sister city relationship in 2017. Every two weeks we share our thoughts with the newspapers in our towns, including The Tuskegee News. I also publish our missives as blogs on ECHOboom. Mother’s Day inspired us to focus on our mothers.
By Karin Hopkins
I was an accident but not a mistake. As a teenager, my mother fooled around with a neighborhood boy and their dalliance produced a child. As I typed that word “dalliance,” I thought about the vocabulary, language proficiency and communication skills that have been the tools of my success.
Reflecting on my early beginnings gives me a reason to thank my mother for her strength and sacrifices. She gave me life at a time when having an “illegitimate” child was a disgrace that stained the girl and brought shame to the unwed mother’s family. She also made a decision to be a responsible parent. That meant getting a job and figuring out how to provide for us. My father and his family rejected me, but on my mother’s side, it was all love and nurturing.
We lived with my grandparents along with my mother’s two sisters, my step-grandmother’s son and his two children. As my Auntie LaLa was teaching one of the boys to read, I was in the room too, an infant who advanced to a toddler and everyday, I was learning by osmosis. I was three years old when my family first realized that I could read and comprehend written material. I started school at age four. With my family bragging about how smart I was and my teachers gushing over me, I felt so special.
Looking back I see how approval from supportive adults, at home and in school, helped to build my self-esteem and change my life trajectory. Something in my soul had always yearned for the love of my father and not having his acceptance, left me wounded, hurt and vulnerable. Academic excellence was my salvation. It was the right thing for the wrong reasons. Basically, I was an insecure child who used excellence to get hugs. This became a pattern for me and over the years I have come to appreciate the complexity of my life. Those hugs that I earned through excellence as a child, morphed into grown-up rewards as I maintained excellence throughout my career as a television news anchor and later as a business owner.
Born into a ghetto environment with the cards stacked against me, my mother has always been my ace in the hole. She is now elderly with serious health challenges. Yet, I am blessed to still have her in my life.
By Amy Miller
My grandmother grew up in Manhattan and raised three children there, as did my mother. Life in the city was comfortable and cosmopolitan.
My two children are growing up in a small Maine town. We cook, we grow vegetables, once in a while we even bake bread. My mother thinks I am practically a survivalist. On the surface, I made a significant departure from my family’s patterns.
But the more profound transformation in the family came between my mom and her mother. My mother grew up with a mother who loved her, but not the way a child ought to be loved. My grandmother was smart, funny and dedicated to family. But she was angry and depressed, traits exacerbated by tragedy in her own life. As a result, my mother was left with the short end of the stick.
My mom made a decision to give her children what she didn’t have. And that meant unconditional love for me, my older brother and my younger sister.
I sent my mother a little wooden box for Mother’s Day last year. It said: “If I had a garden for every time you made me smile, I’d have a garden to walk in forever.” She was deeply moved by this simple gift. This year I sent her chocolates and a book of cartoons by my husband. She said how lucky she was to have me as her daughter.
My mother is rarely disappointed in me. I grew up not just loved, but appreciated as a person, even if I did weird things like slog up mountains, sleep in tents and stay overnight in airports. I am the daughter of two unreligious Jewish people. My dad started a small advertising company and my mom went from stay-at-home mom to doctoral student and then psychotherapist while I was in high school.
All of these factors, and no doubt being white, contributed to making me who I am. But having a mother who supported me – whether or not I had children, got married, or made a lot of money – has played a critical part in a more fundamental way in how I move through the world as an adult.
I don’t know Karin very well. but we have connected. I asked her recently whether she grew up in a loving home. I had a feeling she did.
JK Rowling laid this one out for me in a Harry Potter tome: “Love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves it own mark. To have been loved so deeply … will give us some protection forever.”
Those of us lucky enough to grow up with such limitless love have something in common that may transcend the great differences that can grow out of geography, income and race. Those of us given the foundation hold an emotional safety, that is hard to learn, buy, or sell.
And for that foundation, I thank my mother.
To contact Amy and Karin, write firstname.lastname@example.org