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Column: Reach out to your mama while she is still here
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

For most children, the most common first word is “mama” or some form of it. 

Why not? This is the person who carried you and brought you into this world. This is a person who feeds you, changes you and comforts you when you are hurting.

I don’t know what my first word was. I often worry that it was “hungry” or “feed me.”

For those of you with senior parents, the last year was filled with challenges. Some mamas saw no one in person on Mother’s Day. They were locked behind closed doors in quarantine.

This year, the picture is much better. The largest segment of our population to get vaccinated against COVID-19 are seniors. They are ready to see their families in person. If this scenario is true for your family, I hope that you get to spend a day with you mom.

Later this year, I will mark a quarter of a century since we laid my mama to rest. I miss her. I sometimes dream about her. One night last year, I dreamed she was down the street, and I was ready to go and see about her.

I don’t know what is worse, dreaming about someone or waking to find that your dream was not real.

My mother ran a daycare center in Atlanta. Among her clients was a couple who both worked on the security detail for Maynard Jackson, the mayor at the time. 

One day, the mother came in and had found that she was being called to duty that weekend. She had no one to watch her kids.

My mama offered to take them home with her to Social Circle. As you might guess, my mother was white. The children were Black. 

This was back in the 1970s. Maynard Jackson was Atlanta’s first black mayor. We were still working on race relations. Surely by the year 2000 or after, we’d have all that worked out.

My mama and daddy showed those kids a great time. Dad saddled up the horse and led them around the yard. The scene raised an eyebrow or two in our little town, but it didn’t trouble my mama one bit.

She was a woman who did not have a racist bone in her body. She loved everybody. It went back to the days when she picked cotton on a sharecropper farm in Walton County. They were dirt poor, and the little Black children her age were both her friends and co-workers.

Paul “Bear” Bryant was a legendary coach at his alma mater, the University of Alabama. Bryant returned to his college home in 1958 as head coach. 

When asked why, he replied, “Mama called. And when Mama calls, you have to come runnin’.”

Bryant also referred to mama — his real one not the alma mater — in a South Central Bell TV commercial for Mother’s Day. The commercial is well over 40 years old, and South Central Bell has been defunct for 30 years.

But, it still hits home.

Bryant in his growling bear voice talks to the camera about how new players are instructed to  call and write home to their mothers.

At the end of the commercial, Bryant looks at the camera and says, “Have you called yo’ mama?  I sho’ wish I could call mine.”

The last line was an ad-lib from Bryant, but it made the commercial one of the most memorable ever. Make sure you reach out to your mama while she is still here to appreciate it.

I sure wish I could call mine.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the weekend Life page and on

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