I've got a lot of mothers in my life, and every one of them has had an influence on me in some way.
There's my own mother, of course. Martha McCullough gave me life and then worked hard every day to make sure I had everything I needed, that I got a good education and that I turned out to be a (mostly) good guy. I've tried to repay her by not going to jail and limiting how often I embarrass her in this newspaper.
But seriously, she taught me a lot of life lessons. I've written about them before, but two that have stuck with me most bear repeating: 1) You are ultimately responsible for your own actions. 2) You can't roll around in the mud and not expect to get dirty. If you need either one of those explained, e-mail me and I'll forward it to Mama.
Then there's Mama's mama, Mildred Ward, who I call Granny. Granny grew up in the Great Depression, then spent a couple of years running the household while Granddaddy helped kick the Germans out of Africa and Italy. She worked in a factory while raising four kids, taking care of her sick sister-in-law and working on the farm. Over the years, Granny has been through a handful of tornadoes, a hurricane and open-heart surgery.
I may be a big, burly man, but I'm nowhere near as tough as Granny.
My other grandmother, Mammaw, I only get to see in the picture in my bedroom now. When she was alive, she made the best fried apple pies and biscuits for me and offered a shining example of what it is to be a truly, genuinely nice person.
Perhaps her best gift, though, was teaching me how to tell a story. There was the first time she saw a horseless carriage (she wanted to ride in it but her daddy was afraid she'd get hurt). I also liked the one about the climbing bear at the fair (its owner charged people a dime to watch it climb a pole; to see it climb back down you had to pay another dime).
My favorites were about killing snakes in the cotton fields. Mammaw's "snake stories" were better than any movie or book. They were full of adventure, and she knew just how to keep the suspense up to the very end, when the bad ol' rattlesnake or copperhead ultimately met its demise. One of these days when I finally finish and publish that novel I've been working on for forever I'm going to dedicate it to her.
My sister, Karen Cornell, is a mama, too, and one of my heroes. While I was having a good time in college, she was raising two sons, holding down two and three jobs and going to college. We might both have bachelor's degrees from the University of Georgia, but hers is more deserved. I showed up for four years. Karen poured years of blood, sweat and tears into earning hers.
When I got married, I gained a mother-in-law. Like my Mammaw, Patricia Yancey cooks good country food and tells good stories, too, like how she used to have the fastest car in Loganville or how she accidentally bought some livestock at an auction.
I also gained a sister-in-law, Amanda Reed, who is the mother of a special-needs child, might be the world's busiest scrapbooker and still finds time to make me the occasional red velvet cake.
And finally, there's my wife. Simply, she runs the joint, and I don't mean that in a sarcastic or humorous way.
I work terrible hours, so I'm rarely home to take care of the day-to-day things. We do most of our talking over the phone and e-mail. My wife is asleep when I get in the bed and gone when I wake up. She gets the kids up, picks them up in the afternoon, feeds them, does the dishes, the laundry and about a million other things, all while working full-time with a progressively worsening back injury that's already required one surgery and needs another one.
She does all this, and all she wants for Mother's Day is a cherry tree for the front yard.
The gift I'd really like to give of being home more isn't in the cards at this stage of our lives. So in the meantime, I'll get her a cherry tree and tell her and all the other mamas in my life from the bottom of my heart thank you. Thank you for all your hard work, all your sacrifice and most of all, all your love.
E-mail Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays.