In April, Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs released a song entitled “The Letter X.” The single, which was in support of the book Rad American Women A-Z listed off name after name of famous women who had made a difference in alphabetical order. Until Pennypacker Riggs got to the letter X, which she sings is for the important women whose stories will never be told because it’s unlikely we’ll ever learn them. The song is powerful and the message it conveys — that we should celebrate all women who have made a difference — is exceedingly important.
Hit play and read on:
This Mother’s Day, we’re sure to hear stories of important moms across our culture — from Jackie Kennedy to Angelina Jolie — but what about the other moms out there? What about the ones who don’t have the spotlight shone on them and still made extraordinary sacrifices for their children? To help you celebrate this Mother’s Day we’ve put together a collection of stories, running the gamut from heartbreaking to hilarious, from people who wrote in to tell us about their “ordinary” moms who are anything but.
Huma writes that her mother is her “warrior angel” for the lessons she’s taught her in selflessness and courage:
My mom immigrated from Pakistan as a newlywed. She was a biology teacher there. They were so poor initially, they didn’t even own a clock and would have to ask their neighbors for the time. After giving birth to my younger brother, my mom decided to start working — had she better resources, perhaps she would have gone to nursing school but she didn’t and worked at Campbell soup, the night shift as a case packer (basically, laborer), for 30 years. She would sleep during the day, and wake up for a few hours in the afternoon to pick me up from school, make our dinner, help with homework, etc and then sleep for a few more hours before heading out to work at nighttime. She retired a year or so ago and now is the full time caretaker of my father — he’s a post stroke patient, on dialysis, with one leg amputated. She feeds him, cleans him, clothes him, and also helps babysit my nephews and takes care of a frequently incontinent elderly cat. She does all of this while waiting on surgery for her second knee replacement and a shoulder replacement. Although from a deeply conservative culture, my mother embraced my white sister-in-law with open arms and heart. She’s my warrior angel.
Marthine writes that her mom has saved her from metaphorical drowning during the first year of her son’s life:
I just had my first child, and it’s week 5. My mom has stayed with us for multiple nights and helped change diapers, do middle of the night soothing sessions, and been a 3rd parent basically since my son’s been born. She’s also committed being his caretaker 3 days a week for the first year of his life, saving us from the insanity of Bay Area daycare prices and waitlists. Most people seem to drown when their babies are born, but I feel like we’re thriving because of my mom’s support.
Mike Kulich (most famous for giving Ted Cruz’s doppelganger an adult film deal), wrote in with a powerful story of his own:
I had a bad DUI in 2011 as a result of drugs. Everyone had given up on me except my mom. She flew from Florida to California. I was in The LA County jail and they said I had a visitor.
I had no idea who it could be, and it was my mom and it was her birthday.
She stuck by me through my trial and helped me get into a program. I’ve been sober ever since.
Joan’s mom is a fighter through and through:
My mom is going strong after five years of chemo for ovarian cancer. Not much is more fantastic for me than having a mom that is still kicking after a diagnosis that usually comes with a two-year clock.
That and she taught me how to cook, and swear.
Former UPROXX writer Aaron Pruner’s mom is always helping others:
My mother has overcome a lot and is currently (technically) disabled, living off social security, but uses her free time to volunteer for both the Red Cross and Operation Blankets of Love which supplies blankets to misplaced pets after natural disasters.
And 16-year-old Karley Marion’s mom, Alicia, is an inspiration:
My mom is one of the best ppl I know. She is so sweet and caring. She is a single mother and she is raising me and my 8 siblings on her own with no help. That might not seem like much to most ppl but I think its amazing because she suffers from lupus and epilepsy, but she dont let that hold her bk from anything she wants to do.
She’s fun and sometimes a little weird. She’s outgoing and sweet, and she’s the type of person that will ride a bike around Walmart or stand in the street and dance. The most amazing thing about her is it doesn’t matter how hard things get or what’s going on, she always have time for us. She’s always there when we need her. I’m 16 years old but she’s still the person I got to when I’m sad an need a hug or worried and just need comfort. She’s amazing in every way possible.
Shalimar’s story reminds us that moms can be our partners in mischief:
My mom was murdered last year, but she was AMAZING. I’m the first in the entire family to go to college. She took me to tour Humboldt State before fall term started, but we didn’t have a lot of money. My dad bought me a 1983 Dodge Ram van — root beer brown with “the final approach” airbrushed on the side — he told me “if things get rough you can live in the van.”
We took the van to Humboldt and camped in it. It was an amazing road trip – we bonded so hard. On the way home the windshield wipers stopped working during a downpour. We took our shoelaces out and rigged up a system where we alternated pulling the strings. So there we were, trucking down 101 in a rainstorm, passing a joint back and forth and cackling about the shitty van.
That’s how I remember her best — resourceful, laughing, and smoking a doob.
Uproxx Life editor Steve Bramucci says that his mom imbued him with the spirit of adventure and two even more valuable qualities.
I remember my mom leading a hike when I was a kid, right up a river gorge. The water was up to my chest in most places, over my head in some, and biting cold. The canyon walls towered above us on either side with giant ferns dangling down. I was probably eight years old and I’m sure my memory has exaggerated the conditions a little, but I know this: My mom was out in front, fearless, plowing forward against the current. Laughing in the face of danger.
This was her way, she found the planet ripe for exploring and she appreciated it deeply. She’d make us chorus “thank you beach” every time we left the coast — a habit I maintain to this day.
When I was in high school, we fought a fair bit, but even in those moments of teen-drama there was another quality I always admired: She felt everything. Her nerve endings were open, her emotions were raw, she wasn’t numb to beauty (or pain), never for a second. That’s the man I want to be in a nutshell, someone who is adventurous, who is appreciative, and who feels deeply.
Alison Rusine’s mom supported her in ways that seemed normal when she was younger, but are pretty amazing, looking back:
There isn’t one specific instance of my mom being great- just years of support to prove her awesomeness. I joined the volleyball team in high school at the age of 14. I quickly became obsessed, and started playing year around on a traveling club team at age 15. Not only did my parents agree to pay the $3000+ expenses every year (and we weren’t rich, just solidly middle class), but more importantly, my mom went to every. single. game. Home games, away games, and all day tournaments. Everything.
Even when I went to college and joined the club volleyball team (consisting of players who were good and very enthusiastic, but not good enough to make the NCAA team), she still came to all of my tournaments. By this time my dad apparently thought I should have out grown volleyball, because he never went to one of my college matches. My mom would even come watch the grass volleyball tournaments that I played in during the summer… and because this was in California, that meant she often had to sit outside in 100 degree weather.
When I was younger, I didn’t think this was anything extraordinary — I just thought it was normal. But as I’ve gotten older, I realized how lucky I was. Hardly anyone from high school could claim that they had a parent at every game, and no one else from college had a parent travel out like my mom did (though it helped that I went to college right outside my hometown). She worked full time as a second grade teacher, yet managed to always be there for me. I am so grateful to the support my mom gave me, continuing on into my adult years. I really couldn’t ask for a better mom.”
Not all moms are biological. From comedian Jimmy Fowlie, about his mother, Hannah:
My mom’s been a foster parent with the department of social services for over 25 years! I watched her get up in the middle of the night and make beds for kids who needed a place last minute (it was through a service called “hotline”) and she had been like a super mom to hundreds of kids. Sometimes for a a day, a week, or a couple of years.
I was one of those foster babies that came through her home and luckily I stayed!
Sometimes they’re your mother-in-law or your grandma. From Amanda:
I have the best mother-in-law. She’s always there to talk to when I need her and she “gets” me, even more than my own mom.
My grams is my hero — she gave up her job and ended up losing her house to take my sister and me in and raise us. She literally gave up everything for us and even after that would do without things she needed to give us stuff we wanted or she wanted us to have. Everything I am today is because of her guidance and love.
But there are other unsung heroes here. From Ayla, whose mom helped her heal after a horrible breakup:
My college boyfriend had dumped me. I was devastated and crying for days (as college kids do because EMOTIONS). My mom called me and said, “do you want to see me and your puppy? Because we are downstairs, outside your dorm!” She’d driven 7 hours to my college just to give me a weekend with my dog and her.
From Tara, who reminds us that it’s important that moms are chill and reasonable:
My mom didn’t make me go to school when I spilled orange juice all over my self in the car. I thought that was pretty cool of her.
And from Dorothy, who’s just taught us that Clowning for Jesus exists:
My mom stayed in the U.S. undocumented instead of returning to Taiwan and never got to use her masters degree, instead she worked in the garment district for 20 years.
She also took a clowning for Jesus class and went to a playground to fold balloon animals and proselytize.
But not too chill and reasonable. From Katelyn:
My mom threw me a bumpin 21st bday party. My aunt got drunk at it and told 100 of my closest friends that she had an affair.
And finally, there’s comedian Liz Stone, whose mom Margie may be trying to give her hints about a career change and doesn’t actually think kids are worth the trouble. Cats are better:
My mom sent me light up clear plastic high heeled shoes for my 30th birthday…despite the fact I have never expressed an interest in dancing for money. In fact, she mailed them to the law firm where I was gainfully employed as an attorney! I will say though, when a bathroom attendant in Vegas told me she had “never seen anything like those before” and took a picture, I knew I had won Vegas.
In college she mailed me a package of cookies she made for Valentine’s Day — they were a hand with a cut out heart in the palm, but good ole’ Margie Stone folded down all the fingers except the middle fingers so I had “F*CK YOU VALENTINE” cookies.
I took her to Mexico for vacation when I was working at a law firm and we drank margaritas all day long. We both passed out in our towel at 8 pm trying to apply self tanner to ourselves. She woke up the next morning, did not know how she got so tan, and resumed margarita drinking! (She calls them “Marge-aritas” and brings them to her next door neighbor’s house so often their kids grew up thinking that was the official name of the drink).
She facetimes with my cats and doesn’t ask for grandkids. (She told me “I wouldn’t have kids, they really aren’t worth the trouble” — is that supportive or terrible? Who cares, let’s drink more margaritas.)
Happy Mother’s Day!