By Sara Dobbs Gwin, Guest Columnist
For those of you who read Mom’s weekly article about the news at Madison First Baptist and the entire Madison community, you know she always ends with May you be blessed.
In addition, she uses the same ending phrase for the almost-daily phone conversations my family and I have with her. I moved to Mobile, Alabama, in 1986 for a “big” job, married a local yokel in 1988 (a sweet Baptist deacon who has put up with me these past 23 years), and I have lived here ever since. I cannot even imagine how many times I have spoken to Mom, Dad and other family members on the phone throughout the years! Plus, my car goes on “autopilot” as we regularly make the 311-mile trip from Mobile to Madison, a trip I’ve made numerous times through the years!
My husband, Bobby, sons, Rob and Rhett, and I were fortunate to be in Madison for the Thanksgiving holidays last week and I thought about how blessed I really am. Here’s a list of things I am thankful for:
My sweet mom, Virginia Nell Agner Dobbs, is still with us. She taught many of you at Madison Primary School “back in the day” or was your librarian. To this day, I am still asked sometimes, “Are you Mrs. Dobbs’ daughter?” It is funny to have that as my “claim to fame,” but I am blessed to have that. I remember how Oadie, Jesse, and Nita and I would go with her after school years ago to visit some of her students. She was a great teacher. In fact, Rosie Knox Nixon, now an English instructor at North Florida Community College, wrote a tribute to Mom recently about her recollections of Mom as her second grade teacher the year her father died. Thanks, Rosie, that meant a lot to Mom.
Mom’s sense of community and love for each of you. Every morning when I talk to her she fills me on all the “Madison news.” When I remind her I have not lived in Madison since 1982 and do not remember who is related to whom, particular folks who married, and other key events of Madison County, she says, “Of course, you do!”
Mom’s willingness, interest and ability to continue writing her weekly column for you all. Though she did take a short hiatus while caring for Daddy at home from 2006 to 2008, she was happy to resume the writing of her column. I believe she told me she has been writing it for about 10 years. When I’m home, so many of you tell me how much you enjoy reading her news and learn so much about people from her. (I’m not sure if that’s good or bad – ha ha!)
•The Madison McDonald’s. When I grew up in Madison in the 60’s and 70’s, there were no fast food restaurants. I think we had The Dairy Bar, later called Hillcrest Restaurant, which was owned by the John Waring family. Their oldest son, John, was one of my classmates. And, of course, Ken’s Bar-B-Que was one of the other restaurants. I’m thankful that when I go into McDonald’s now I see former schoolmates and when I remind them who I am, I am no longer a “stranger” to Madison.
In fact, I was in McDonald’s last Friday night doing graduate work (Mom doesn’t get Internet connection “way out in the country” where she lives) when students, band members, and others came into McDonald’s after the Friday night football game. The Cowboys had just beaten a Catholic high school, according to one of the young people, and they were loud and rowdy. I spoke to one of them and said, “Hey, I’m not as old as I look. I used to be in the Madison High Band and played the clarinet. Then, we were the Madison Cougars at the old high school.” You know the look one gets from young people when they hear a comment like that!
Childhood and community friends. Our dear Hanson friend, John Troyer, who we first met at Pine Grove Baptist Church in the 70’s, preached at Hanson Methodist Church for the Sunday morning service. Mom, his mother Pat, John’s “best friend” Vicky Walker, her friend, Bob, and I went there to hear him preach. It was good to see community friends: Archie and Opal Strickland (I remember they were high school sweethearts), their Mom, Pauline, their uncle and aunt, Elmer and Louise Strickland, Glendyle Little (our neighbor down the road on Highway 254 – we loved her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Odom who we attended church with at Pine Grove), the Newsberrys, including Heidi, who encouraged everyone to go see her father’s new head stone, Laura Pulliam (also our neighbor on Highway 254) without Mr. Jim, who was not feeling well that morning, and too many others to mention. John is a great preacher and we enjoyed the community spirit of the congregation very much.
Special friends of Madison First Baptist. Mom and I attended the 80th birthday party of Christine Blanton (hope you don’t mind me putting your age in print, Mrs. Blanton) at the church and it was good to see so many old friends. Years ago, we used to see Mrs. Blanton at Dr. Gibson’s dental office where she worked. And, I worked with Dyan, her daughter-in-law, many years ago at Gulf Life Insurance when I was at home that first year after college.
Mom and Dad’s love for gardening and sharing with others. Mom insisted that I bring back satsumas and kumquats from their farm; I believe my family and I had about 50 of each in the car with us on our way back to Alabama Sunday night. Daddy was always so excited about his ability to grow citrus in Madison and wouldn’t let anyone have a piece until “Sister” (yes, that’s me) came home and picked all she wanted. I currently work at Taylor-Wharton Cryogenics in the south part of Mobile County as their global marketing coordinator. I brought some of Mom’s fruit in to the office today and everyone enjoyed eating them. I told them the fruit was compliments of my sweet, 83-year-old mom.
So, you see, I too am blessed. In fact, I am very blessed to have had Virginia Nell Agner Dobbs as my sweet mother. A few years ago, I was telling Oadie that I was getting just like Mom: I was saving plastic bags, making sure I got all of the extra liquid out of a can before I threw it away, and other “Nell characteristics.” To which my brother replied, “Oh, no, you will never be half the woman Mom is!” And he is right…
I love you, Mom, and so does all of Madison County!