This essay first appeared in the Erie Daily Times Newspaper in 1983. It is written by my father, Charles Pittman.
Mothers are indeed something special, and every Mother’s Day I try to make a trip back home to spend that special day with my mother.
This year, the plans were all set but a myriad of things cropped up at the last minute that prevented me from being in Baltimore.
It seemed awkward not being with my mom on her day, but I used the occasion to reflect on events that happened in my life that made my mother seem extra special.
Growing up in Baltimore was nothing special, yet in a sense it was - because mom always made it seem that way. She constantly impressed upon the Pittman kids that they were different - not better, but different.
While we did the normal things that kids do, like play all sports, skate in the street, play cards, stick ball and step ball (Baltimore was noted for its marble steps - you’d get a rubber ball and while one player bounced it off the steps, another would hit it back toward the house).
We had our rules for when we could play and for how long. We could never play cards or any type of ball on Sundays, and during the long summer vacations, it was a must that our day include reading a few pages from any book.
It was also a must that we take a nap or just come into the house to spend some time with mom. The other kids in the neighborhood never understood why the Pittmans had to take naps or read books, or why we couldn’t just run aimlessly up and down the alleys. I might add that the Pittman children didn’t understand either.
It was just that mom wanted it that way, and we seldom questioned her reasons. Her favorite line whenever we had the nerve to question was, “You just can’t do what the other kids do because I know what’s best for you.”
I don’t mean to imply that was a tough disciplinarian. In fact, she was just the opposite. She was a caring and loving mom who just knew what she wanted for her children.
Learning By Example
She often talked about her younger days when she grew up in Lumberton, NC and how she graduated as valedictorian from high school. But she never put any pressure on us to perform in school. However, she did manage to raise all honor students, a National Merit Scholarship finalist and a valedictorian.
Mom was always a very pretty lady with long hair, and when we were younger we’d take turns combing and styling it. This was her way of letting us stay close to her, hoping that we’d continue to grow up to emulate her. I think that all the kids would agree that mom knew her role and played it very well.
The family consisted of three boys and a girl, and all the boys had athletic inclinations. My two brothers played baseball and I played football. My father, who was a real sportsman, took credit for this.
While he actively pursued and encouraged our athletic careers, mom never watched any of us play because she feared we’d get hurt or take losing too seriously. I still remember the first time she came to watch me play in college. It was actually the first time she’d come to see any game I played in. I didn’t get into the game until the second half and when I did, I never touched the ball.
I was so disappointed because I never had a chance to show her what her son could do. As a result, I was the last one out of the locker room after the game. But when we got together afterwards, she consoled me only the way a mother can do. She said, “Well, at least you didn’t get hurt. Just think, you still have three more years to show me you can play. Just be patient. You’ll get your turn.”
She was right again. Patience paid off and she watched me perform on many occasions at Penn State. Whenever she was in the stands, it gave me a little more incentive to play well.
Mom never saw me play professionally because she could sense, as only a mother could, the disappointment I was experiencing as a pro player. When I finally decided my playing days were over, she probably experienced a relief that I was never seriously injured during my years of playing.
I’m sure that during the many times you see an athlete say, “Hi Mom” after making a great play on national TV, you wonder why they salute their moms instead of their dads.
Well, I can answer it the only way I know. While all moms are special, moms with children who are athletes are even more special. Mothers keep meals warm because of a late game or practice. They organize carpools and wash and clean uniform after uniform. You can’t even count the physical aches and pains they nurse.
And if, by chance, the team loses because of your error or fumble, mothers just don’t seem to let it bother them. They manage to keep it all in perspective. And I guess for no other reason, my mother has always managed to help me through the years to keep everything in perspective.
Even now, when times get sort of tough, she still manages to find the right solution to make life better.
And even though I didn’t get to see my mother this Mother’s Day, it was quite nice just to take time to reminisce about the things we often take for granted. Somehow, no matter how old children get, mothers never stop being mothers. And for this I am thankful. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.