A gray-haired woman in a rocking chair, as artist James Whistler depicted his mother?
Not in 1986.
Today's mother more likely is involved with PTA, car pooling, Little League, ballet lessons and getting the dog to the veterinarian--while finding time to work part time and join in the anti-nuclear movement.
Or she is a neatly tailored (the neckline bow and smart earrings are just the right feminine touch) professional woman dropping her 4-year-old at a Montessori school. In certain socioeconomic circles she is the sleek woman who, looking as good in a skintight bikini as her 18-year-old daughter, rushes off faithfully to her aerobics workout.
Worries About Children
Today's mother also is the Latina who works as a domestic. Here illegally, she worries not about what deportation would do to her but about the lost educational and economic opportunities it could mean for her children.
And the mother of 1986 is the single parent who prefers poverty-level wages to being on welfare. She worries about what her children do during her long workdays--and can only pray that they stay out of gangs and off drugs.
Today, Mother's Day, the Westside Women's Clinic will present "Generations of Women Helping Women," a salute to five women, their mothers, one's grandmother and, in some cases, their daughters at a garden brunch in Brentwood. The multigenerational honorees span ages 22 to 93.
They represent community activities, public service, the arts, business, sports, the professions. Two of the honorees' mothers are immigrants who worked in garment factories to help support the family and educate their daughters. Another became a nurse with the help of others who saw her potential and encouraged her to pursue an education. One is the daughter of politically active parents. One, whose interests range from health to hunger, belies the image of the conventional Southern belle--as do her mother and grandmother.
Carrie Miller sat in the comfortable family room of the Riverside home she shares with her husband, Saul, and, when they're home, their five children.
On one side of the fireplace loomed a large television screen, the kind favored by hard-core sports fans. Nearby a clutter of trophies effectively blocked sight of the brick fireplace.
Miller cast a humorously rueful eye on the trophies, which include a number of silver awards--the kind that have to be polished regularly. Is that part of her job as mother of one of the best-known sports clans in Southern California?
She nodded affirmatively.
"One hundred forty trophies and 125 plaques," she said. "As of last count."
No doubt that count has changed already. Daughter Cheryl Miller, 22, was graduated Friday from the University of Southern California, where she picked up another array of trophies from what probably has been the most illustrious basketball career--male or female--in Trojan history.
Cheryl Miller has captured almost every high school, university and media award available to her, including a few previously reserved for male athletes, plus numerous civic honors.
Her most cherished, however, is the Olympic gold medal she won as a member of the championship United States women's basketball team at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
"Cheryl spoke to a high school group in Hudson, N.Y., and relived her own Olympic experience," Carrie Miller said. "Cheryl said it didn't matter that she was black or white. She was an American and she had achieved her highest goal.
"Everybody had tears in their eyes. Cheryl said that what the Olympics proved was that we all are Americans, that she is an American, and nothing else mattered."
Cheryl comes from a patriotic family. Her father, whose children seem to have inherited his abilities as a musician and ballplayer, retired from the Air Force as a chief master sergeant. The Millers' eldest son, Saul Jr., 29, is a professional musician with the Airmen of Note, the No. 1 Air Force jazz band.
But sports seem to dominate. Son Darrell, 27, is a backup catcher and outfielder with the California Angels. Cheryl, facing the end of her playing career for lack of women's pro basketball teams, plans to go into sports broadcasting. Reggie, 20, is a star basketball player at UCLA and Tammy, 18, who will be graduated from high school next month and plans to enter college in the fall, shows her athletic abilities in track and volleyball.
Carrie Miller is the kind of mother who makes chocolate chip cookies, Reggie's favorite, when she knows he is coming home and who puts spaghetti and chili in small containers for Cheryl to take back to campus.
'Always a Miller Represented'