Words From the Editor

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker

My editorial this month will be a departure from my normal look at what readers can expect in the issue. Because this month’s theme is all about Gratitude I decided to talk about my mother and the gratitude I have for her; how she has overcome so much in her life… which has given me strength and persistence and trust that I can push (or flow!) through challenges.

By the way, my mom (now 88) reads WNC Woman each month so she’ll be getting a nice surprise when she picks up this month’s issue (Hi Mom!)

My mother was born into a dirt-poor Scots-Irish-Native American family in Hiawasee, Georgia. She lived the first 10 years of her life roaming the mountains with her siblings and going to a one-room school; she has told me she literally didn’t know there was anything different outside of where and how they lived.

One of her aunts took her to a Five and Dime at age 10 and she “went haywire” she says, running all over the store in utter amazement.

At age 12 or 13 the family moved near Cleveland, Georgia and for the first time she realized not everyone lived the way she had grown up: often without decent shoes, clothes, a bath or combed hair and brushed teeth.

She determined to change her life at that young age. In the summer of her 14th year she helped pick a crop of cotton; with that money she ordered some gabardine fabric from Sears & Roebuck catalog and made herself two wrap around skirts.

Then one day she simply packed up her “kit” with her few belongings, and told her mother she was going to Gainesville to stay with a relative, and find a job.

She walked the several miles to the bus station, not really even knowing where it was nor how much a ticket would cost.

When she reached Gainesville she searched out her aunt’s house, knocked on the door and asked if she could stay with them until she found a job and another place to stay. That family consisted of parents and three kids living in a two-room house with no running water nor electricity.

The next day she went to a local chicken processing plant and applied for a job. They believed her when she said that she was 16 and she was hired.

Every day she and some of the other girls went to lunch at a local cafe called the T & C. After a few weeks the owner begged mom to come to work for him as a waitress.
He convinced her the pay would be better and she took the job, also moving into the nearby boarding house his wife ran.

Mom says she felt, for the first time, that she had real hope for a better life: running water and electricity, good and plentiful food, even her own money to buy a few nice things for herself and her little brothers..

That welcoming and loving family would become her in-laws a couple of years later, and of course, my grandparents!

It was only last year that mom revealed to me that when she left home she could barely read or do simple addition. I wondered how she managed to work in a cafe and she said she’d go into a corner to figure her tickets where no one could see how long it took her, nor see her embarrassment..

Yet, that didn’t stop her. Having very little education didn’t stop her. Living in the midst of dire poverty and without obvious opportunities didn’t stop her.
Through many difficulties in life her intelligence and peristence always shined through.

Mom, those lessons have served me well in my own life. I don’t think I have expressed my gratitude often enough. So…Thank You! I love you very much.

Now, readers, be grateful!

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker