Letter from the Editor – Growing Up With The General

“Bill, I’m gonna kill you!” This saying became our family joke because my little brother, Bill, would exasperate my mother to the point of yelling. He tested her patience every day. I became a mother twenty years ago and now I totally get it. Motherhood is not for sissies and my mother was quite the opposite. Strong. Determined. Unstoppable. She was always the leader and never the follower. What was it like growing up with a mother like mine? It sure wasn’t boring!

Bill, Mother, and Laura / Photography by Patricia MontgomeryWe were raised in a military family. My dad was an Army officer and my mom, Gene, was the epitome of an officer’s wife. She ran a tight ship. I answered the phone, “Hammond residence, Laura Hammond speaking.” Starting at age six, I had to make my bed every day. In his teen-aged years, my brother would choose to sleep on top of the covers so that he wouldn’t have to make the bed. We had chores. We cleaned the house every Saturday. I set the table and fed the dog. Mother cooked dinner and we all sat down together at 6:30 p.m. We did not read or watch TV during meals and were always punctual. By seventh grade I cleaned up the kitchen by myself (mother gave me the nickname of Cinderella). What did this teach me? I learned self-reliance, a good work ethic, how to have an organized household, and an orderly life.

When my dad went off to do his first tour in Vietnam, my mom was the director of Gazelle Dew, a Girl Scout camp in NW Georgia. That summer was one to remember. The camp was run down, the cottages were in need of repair, and the swimming hole was overtaken by pond scum. It was the summer of ’69 and the counselors frequently played Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sounds of Silence on a record player. To this day, I know most of the words to those songs by heart. Meanwhile, Gene was doing her best to run the horseback riding camp smoothly, while killing snakes and chasing off mountain lions. She was the image of Annie Oakley, who she actually played in a Cedartown production of Annie get your Gun years later. Lesson learned: Get back on that horse when you fall down and make the best of your situation.

Over the years, we certainly gave my mother some scares. I drank Clorox bleach at age three and had to have my stomach pumped. My brother and I were playing in the bottom drawer of a large chest of drawers and it fell over on me, pinning me down. One time, when Bill was about two, he managed to climb out on the window sill and scare my mother half to death. Then, there was the time Bill shot himself in the stomach with a pellet gun and had to be rushed to the hospital. My brother’s stories outweigh mine so there’s no need to continue, but now you know why my mom regularly threatened him, but in a loving motherly way.

I am driven to succeed because that’s what I learned from watching my mother growing up. More importantly, she taught me that life’s about accomplishing something you are proud of, never wavering from your core values, and that it takes integrity and honesty to succeed. My late husband nicknamed my mother General Gene and he sometimes referred to me as General Gene Jr. It’s a badge of honor and I’m proud to have my strong, independent mother as my role model. Besides, the General is always in charge! Happy Mother’s Day Mama!

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