My Mother turns 70 years young today. Unfortunately I was not able to attend her party as my family is in New Mexico for a cousin's wedding. It has, however, gave me a moment of pause to reflect. You see, much of why I am a bulldog stems from my Mother's family and their love of UGA, along with their desire to build a college fund, albeit a very small one, for me to get to school. My mother diligently took each gift of cash and worked the banks as she could to maximize returns, giving me enough money to at least get to Athens and get started. My grandparents also gave me my first car, providing wheels to get to Athens. The basic things to get started. And they loved UGA.
I remember one time my grandfather said something about UT that went like "I hate them sonsofbitches." Living in Lafayette, Georgia, puts you dangerously close to UT land, and they were often reminded of it. My great grandfather played football at Georgia, and he hated on Tech. There were years when they would go to Atlanta, and he could snob knob with all the big names he knew back (way back) in the day. My Mother went to nursing school at Georgia Baptist, but all things red and black were never lost on her, and she knew where everyone would be on a fall afternoon on Saturday. And in fact always made sure there were plenty of home grown tomatoes, cantaloupe and fried goodness for those weekends. Georgia was a tie that binded. You can learn more about my bulldog history here in my dawgopraphy.
I was given bulldog gear (clothes) before I even knew I would attend the University. It's always been that way. Even now, my Moms sends about everything you can buy at the Krogers with a G on it. I recently read that Europeans don't understand our obsession with college, but I think this helps explain it a lot: it's part of our community, part of our family history and my Mother is, still till this day, very proud of me for graduating UGA. Like all Moms she helped me time and time again through those 5 years; so many loads of laundry carried home weekly to bi-weekly to be washed and toted back to Athens. There were the summers she helped me find employment at Georgia Baptist to earn money for college, and of course all the real food meals she cooked followed by sending leftovers back to Athens. And I never, ever heard my Mother say a negative word about any of it. Always there, always supportive, and always proud for me to be at the University and pursuing a flight career with the Air Force.
I was so busy then getting ready to be a force of good against evil at the time I didn't always take notice of the things my Mother did to help me out. And then I was gone, gone and gone so much as she took care of so many family members in my absence. I am very lucky to have such a loving and caring Mom who has been steadfast through so many years of long separations. She also always calls to check on Cotton, yet another symbol of our red and black blood that is part of our family. No, she doesn't watch all the games, but she checks all the news stories for me even with the internet age, and even though I am a sports writer myself, she dutifully cuts all the game pictures or stories from the AJC and mails them out to me weekly. She's caught all the podcasts as well, and in fact, when I first started doing radio, I told Kit, "You can't imagine how much this means to my family." I don't know if there is ever any way to pay your mom back, but I hope writing and talking about my alma mater as something I love brings her joy to see me happy doing it.
So, Happy Birthday Claudia. I love you very much. Thank you for giving me a chance to be a bulldog and use that chance to continue to do something that I love and meet great people with similar hearts. I wouldn't have made it here without you. I look forward to some pork chops and biscuits really soon. And, Momma, make no mistake about it: You're a Damn Good Dawg.
Until we see each other next, GO DAWGS!