The world is full of influential people but none quite so influential as those who were there for us from the very beginning. I’m talking, of course, about our mothers. Mothers have such a profound impact on who we are as people and it’s so hard to fully express how true that is when I consider who I have become because of who my mother taught me to be.
A single mom raising two kids with very little money but enough resourcefulness to make my sister and I believe otherwise. There was always food on the table and there was always clothing on our backs, but it didn’t end there. My sister and I wanted for nothing as children. We had every Disney movie that came out, more toys than we knew what to do with and we were never told no when it came to bringing home stray pets.
No stranger to discipline, Mom ruled the house with a firm hand but loved even harder. She gave my sister and I room to explore our own personalities and always urged us think for ourselves rather than to let the television do it for us. In fact, we weren’t allowed to have a TV until I was about 7 and my older sister was 9. But before then, Mom would read books to us and gave us crayons and colored pencils, paints, clay, and any other tool to stimulate creativity.
Yes, there were hardships and sometimes, I’m sure there were days when my mom wasn’t sure what we were going to do next. Still, she always did something. I think a lot of the times when I’m uncertain or when I feel like all is lost, something tells me that it really isn’t. Sometimes if I sit and think about things for a bit, I realize that I have options and I can act. I must at least try no matter how upset I am or how hard it seems. That strength is my mother through and through. .
There were times when my husband and I were talking about different directions we wanted to take in life. I remember telling him that I’d really hate to let him go but I’m not afraid to be alone. I know that if I walked out the front door tomorrow with a suitcase in my hand, I can take care of myself and survive on my own. I know how to start over and I know how to stay put. My husband told me that he loved me for being that independent and strong willed. “I get it from my Mom.” I told him.
My mother, Shanda A. Eldridge, was born in 1958 in Saint Louis, Missouri. She grew up in Kirkwood which, at the time was a predominantly white community of St. Louis. She even attended Kirkwood High school where her senior year book picture was taken (shown above). Standing Five feet small, my mother is warm and inviting but feisty and sharp when the situation calls for it. Just like me.
With Mother’s Day around the corner, I wanted to sit down with her and look back at how far she’d come and some of the things she remembered.
No internet, not cell phones. What was it like growing up in that time? How do you remember it?
You can’t miss what you don’t know. At that time, we knew nothing about all the portable devices like cell phones and tablets. When we wanted to be social we hung outside with our friends. The telephone was much different back then too. It had a cord for one thing and if someone was on the phone it would tie up the phone line. So if there was an emergency, someone could call the operator and she could interrupt your call. And don’t let it be ya mamma trying to get a hold of you because you’d be in trouble for tying up the phone lines!
I do remember this one time, I thought I had disconnected from the operator. I said something snarky and the operator heard me and cut our phone line off. My grandmother was so mad! We eventually got the line back on but in those days you really did have a third party involved in making phone calls.
With technological advances still progressing, what was “cool” for young people in the day?
Well each decade presented something new. It’s hard to say what was cool to have for kids I grew up with because I had everything. I had my own bicycle, my own television, a closet full of clothes and shoes, and tons of dolls, you name it! As a teenager, music was on 8-track, I had a Spirograph, I had these dolls called Liddle Kiddles that I used to play with. I think I was destined to be a mom because I had a lot of baby dolls.
By the age of 16 I learned to drive. No more dolls. By that age, we were into boys and driving! I was also into school activities like the theater club. I directed the high school musical my senior year. I was the first black female in my school to do it.
Rising kids in the late 80’s and through the 90’s, tell us of your adventure and how things changed.
First of all, and probably the most important thing, is that having kids didn’t come easy for me. I was told at an early age that I couldn’t have kids. I didn’t believe it and I didn’t take no for an answer. When I got married, I sought out a fertility specialist and started my journey to realizing my dream of being a mom. After many doctor visits and surgeries, two plus years, finally, I found I was expecting my first child. It was bittersweet because I had just lost my mother two months before that. While pregnancy was uneventful, the birth of my first child was not. I had to have an emergency c-section after about 16+ hours of labor because my daughter had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. She was delivered just fine, of course but it was a lot to go through. I didn’t even know that I could have another child after that. I was so happy just to have one. I was a mom just like I had wanted to be for so long. Then, low and behold, 22 months later, came my second daughter! (That’s right folks. That’s me!)
I had always wanted to have twins. I thought it would be really cool. My daughters were born about two years apart but I dressed them up like twins anyway. It was too cute not to!
After five years with our girls, my husband and I divorced in 1989.
My journey continued as a single mom for the next 13-14 years. Because of poor choices and decisions, I moved multiple times across the country with two kids. While they were young during the early 90’s, we stayed in Washington State on Whidbey Island, 50 miles north of Seattle.
It was an interesting time, navigating life as a single mom way far away from home or anyone that I really knew. I was providing for kids that were growing up with technology that was a lot different than what I had at that age. My girls didn’t have their own cell phones like kids do these days but we did have a family computer and I learned about dial-up internet and the Chat room craze right along with them.
I remember back then, I ran a thrift store to help out an organization with their ministry. It was only for a few months, but they did a story about it in the local paper and the opportunity evolved into me starting my own philanthropic ministry.
My venture was called “C.R. Ministries”. We gathered, stored, and distributed material goods to programs that served poor and homeless people. We had several agencies, shelters, and families that benefited from the goods we collected through donations.
I was a busy mom but never too busy for my kids. I was there for everything! School field trips, brought their birthday cakes to their classes each year, I home schooled my youngest when the school system failed to give her more attention and prepare her for the 3rd grade. We took rides on the ferry boat once in a while when we’d visit Seattle and other Islands in the Puget Sound. Sometimes it was kind of like an adventure. We’d ride boats in the ocean, visit the horses at local farms and feed them apples, and plenty of trips to the beach to collect seashells, sand dollars, and drift wood. A lot of great memories.
You’ve been living, dreaming, and experiencing life for 60 years! Tell us what you’re up to these days?
Well, I’m on the verge of launching a business. I’ve been romancing the idea for over ten years and it’s about to become a reality. Girlfriends & Sisters Social Network for Professional Women will be taking on a NEW name & a new direction, stayed tuned for the official launch coming later in May. For daily doses of Biz support, tips, practical applications on HOW to GROW your business and profit from your efforts.
“In a funky corner of this sprawling city a sisterhood is forming” JOIN US! ~SHE
Tell us about the values you wanted to instill in your children. Were you raised with those values?
I don’t even know that I thought about what values were important to me or what I wanted my children to learn or know… I was so busy trying to make a life for us… I was bombarded by “have & have not” others having what I wanted but didn’t have. But I think I had what was important to me. I had my children. I was THERE in their lives every day, I wasn’t away at work, trying to raise them over the phone, or unapproachable, I was there. I gave my children “quality time” For all their endeavors & adventures. I was there for school performances, and concerts, & picnics, & field trips, and new adventures like, joining me in outreach ministry, & seeing what homelessness looks like, & being of service to your community, wild adventures on the high seas, learning to drive a boat, seeing wildlife up close & personal, Summer Solstice & sweat lodges & running naked through the woods… That meant so much to me. I wouldn’t trade those days for nothing in the world, except to see them happy like that all over again. Just to be there for them & with them even in a broken mental state, it was very important to me. I wanted to give my children ME! Unlike the relationship I had with my mother… I wanted my children to know me. I had no secrets to hide from them to make them feel distant or wonder what my story was…. I was open & vulnerable. Years before I ever had children I remember confessing how much I wanted to be a mom and how I would raise my children.
I got what I asked for and some that I didn’t. I made mistakes, I made foolish decisions, maybe put them through some things I shouldn’t have. But for the most part, I loved them so much and I was right there with them. I have few regrets. Now that they are both grown, I see the influence I’ve had on them and how they turned out. Both beautiful, successful, smart & talented. I see ME in them and I smile & chuckle a little bit to myself, shaking my head thinking, who knew?
What “message from mom” would you like to leave for our readers?
First, “take flying lessons. What? Learn to F-L-Y First-Love-YOU (fly) and then, tell your story, be yourself, down to Earth, unapologetically & raw. Tell others what you’ve gone through, tell others the obstacles you faced, how you felt, and what did you do to overcome”. ~ SHE
“YES!!! SHARE, TELL your story. Somebody out there NEEDS to hear what you have to say. You don't know how many people can glean from your experience.....” I spent so many years in denial of who I am and what I am capable of. Until I learned to “f-l-y” and then I could embrace ME. Me, with all my flaws and insecurities, self-imposed limitations & fears. I came out of hiding and began to use the gifts & talents I had, to share and bring joy to other people.
So, there you have it folks, a snapshot of the incredible woman that made me, me! As always, she's a joy to talk to and I always learn something new. I hope she never stops teaching me to be me because I get a lot of it from her and I'll never lose her that way.
I love you, Mom!