CULTON: Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

If there is one adjective I would use to describe my mother, it would be no-nonsense… and intelligent and generous and caring and supportive and fiercely protective.

Oh, shoot. I guess that is more than one adjective, but I’m making the rules today — and I’m breaking them.

Sunday is Mother’s Day, a day when children celebrate the women who gave them life. Due to the COVID-19 virus and restrictions on travel, I will not be able to be with my mom this Mother’s Day. So, instead of seeing her, hugging her and sharing a glass of wine with her over “Grey’s Anatomy” reruns, I’m going to use my print space to talk a little bit about her.

Doris Culton, born April 13, 1958, has gone by many names throughout her life. My grandma calls her “Dorie.” My dad calls her “hon.” As a teacher for many years, her students have called her everything from “Ms. Culton” to “Mrs. C” to — in one colorful story — “the C block.”

To me, she has always been “Mom,” though there were times I referred to her by other monikers.

Growing up, she was “the strict one,” a contrast to my father’s more laidback parenting approach. She wasn’t afraid of discipline or making sure my sister and I felt the consequences of our missteps. While I’m sure I whined that she was “totally unfair” at the time, I can now recognize her strictness was a form a love — a sacrifice to keep us safe and help shape us into people who understood the impact we make on others. 

When I entered my teen years, she became “the cool one” — the one I could share my secrets with and talk to about boys and gossip with. She always had the best advice on hand, and she had endless patience when we would go on shopping trips, as I would force her to watch me try on dress after dress.

It wasn’t until I grew up that I was able to see her beyond just “mom.” Now, I understand Doris Culton to be an incredibly complex woman who has traveled the world, served in the Peace Corps and has always stood up for what she believes in. She is kind and compassionate and is always the first to help a family member, stranger or child who she knows needs help.

Basically, my mom is way cooler than I will ever be.

Now that I am an adult, I can appreciate the ways she has shaped me into the person I am. I see the way the sacrifices she and my father made for my education have opened doors for me. Her emphasis on the values of independence and free-thinking has given me an insatiable curiosity, while her unwavering support has allowed me to reach for my dreams and follow my own path.

Every time I go home and visit my mom, I can see more ways she has made me into the person I am today — her smile is my smile, her stubbornness is my stubbornness, and her taste in trashy TV shows is my taste in trashy TV shows.

I’m grateful for the similarities. If I turn out to be half the woman she is, I’ll be one heck of a person. I hope I can live my life with the same passion and sincerity that she does.

When I was writing this column, I tried to think one word, one name that could convey everything Doris Culton is and everything she has done for me, but the word doesn’t exist. There is just too much for one word to express.

I guess “Mom” will have to do.

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