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A Different Kind of Mother

By Paula Deen

As a little girl, I was very fortunate. My mother was my very best friend as I was growing up. Though she was the disciplinarian in the family, I knew I could always count on her. I still remember mama puttin’ the most wonderful meals on the table for our family. Mama was very quiet and ladylike. She carried herself with such grace. Me? I was more of a spitfire. In fact, my family used to tell me I was more like my Aunt Peggy than my mother—Aunt Peggy was a real spitfire too.

When my mama passed away, I was devastated. Losing your mama young is always difficult, especially when you have such a close, special relationship. Though I was a married woman, I still needed plenty of motherly guidance, and I am so blessed and so thankful that my Aunt Peggy picked up my mama’s torch and ran with it.

Peggy taught me so many lessons along the way; most importantly, she taught me to follow my dreams. You know, she really was a woman ahead of her time. She went to college at the University of Georgia in a time when women didn’t really go to college, and she truly was an astute businesswoman. Aunt Peggy and my Uncle George were self-employed, and they learned to make their own way. They were very successful and my role models.

From the first day I opened The Bag Lady to today, she has always been my biggest supporter and cheerleader. When I first started, I was so tired and just didn’t think I had it in me. She would come over and spend a couple weeks in the kitchen with me, getting me through the times I didn’t think I would hold up. She’d tell me I could do it, and, boy, was she right.

I don’t know if my mother would have encouraged me to start my own business, but Peggy always encouraged me to take chances and push the envelope—to walk on the edge instead of playing it safe. Even though I could trip and fall, she was smart enough to know that you can’t let a few bumps and bruises stop you from trying. After all, it’s the mistakes that you learn from and truly remember.

Aunt Peggy took me junkin’ for my very first time and introduced me to the joy of digging for your treasure. She showed me you don’t have to go to a store and buy new stuff to have the most beautiful things. You can take old treasures and mix them in and it would be just as beautiful. Peggy sure knows the value of a dollar, and it’s a lesson I’m glad I learned young.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized you don’t have to give birth to a child to love it like it’s your very own. Not all women feel motherly, but, thankfully, there are some women who are born with that extra mother gene. They’re able to take up any child and love and nurture him or her. I’ve been on both sides of that feeling. I’ve learned it myself with Anthony, Michelle, and Corrie, and it’s a lesson I also learned from Aunt Peggy.

I was so blessed to have the sweetest mother in the world for twenty-three years. I was also fortunate that her sister, my Aunt Peggy, realized I was still a work in progress and needed the love and support that only a mother can give. So, Aunt Peggy, I would like to thank you for having the ability to love me like your sister did, like your own daughter.

Happy Mother’s Day,

Paula

Paula Deen - As a young girl growing up in Albany, Georgia, Paula Deen never dreamed she would become an American icon. As a young mother, Paula was living the American dream — married to her high school sweetheart and raising two adorable boys — when tragedy struck. Her parents died, her marriage failed and she began a prolonged battle with agoraphobia. With her boys in their teens and her family near homelessness, Paula took her last $200, reached deep inside her soul and started The Bag Lady, a home-based catering company that marked the start of Deen's professional cooking career. With sons Jamie and Bobby delivering lunch-and-love-in-a-bag, beginning in June 1989, Paula turned her life around by sharing what she knew best, traditional Southern cooking.

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