Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. debated with Mama Ripken over whose eyes were bluer. Ace of Cakes' Duff Goldman curled up on a sofa and playfully placed his head in his mother's lap. Fox 45's Jennifer Gilbert read potty-training passages from her mother's diary, and
Governor Martin O'Malley and his mom tussled over how often he keeps in touch. To mark Mother's Day 2009, we checked in with some of Baltimore's best-known citizens and the remarkable women who raised them. As Duff Goldman put it, "If my mother was a cake, she would be a seven-tiered wedding cake, and I would be a little cupcake sitting next to her."
Jeffrey "Duff" Goldman & Jacqueline "Jackie" Winch
Photographed at Charm City Cakes Bakery, Baltimore
Duff Goldman's childhood was a little sugar and a lot of spice. "There was no middle ground," says his mother, Jackie, a West Coast-based stained-glass artist. "I figured he'd either be a success or end up in jail." Chimes in Duff, "I did both."
To hear the star of Food Network's Ace of Cakes and his mom tell it, Duff's childhood was punctuated by a series of events including cracked-up cars, graffiti, and fisticuffs. "I always knew I'd be okay," says Duff, who is known for his edible works of art, "but to the outward eye, people would think, 'This kid is headed for disaster.'"
"I was very, very worried," admits Jackie. "But I kept saying, 'Duffy, one day you'll find your passion.'"
With a hit TV show, a popular local band (Soihadto), and an upcoming book (Ace of Cakes: The Book)—not to mention a request to make birthday cakes for the Obama girls—Jackie revels in her son's success.
"I watch every episode of Ace of Cakes at least three times," she says.
"I have memorized some of the episodes; they are just incredible. I love the one where he is riding in a limo [to meet] Daniel Radcliffe. I still see him as a boy, and there he is on TV with Harry Potter!"
Still a boy, perhaps, but one now grown up enough to be able to send his mom on a cruise to Hawaii and splurge on her when he wants to. "I've put this poor woman through so much," says Duff. "This is not spoiling or showering. It's repayment that will never, ever be replaced—
I don't owe the bank, but for the rest of my life, I owe my mother."
Governor Martin & Barbara O'Malley
Photographed at Maryland Government House, Annapolis
"The two things in our household that we'd never dream of skipping were an election and Mass," says Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, who attended a rally for former Democratic Presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey with his mother when he was just two. "My mother taught us that the only thing wrong with politics is that not enough good people get involved."
The rich political environment of the O'Malley household—late father Tom was the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; mom Barbara was a National Committee Woman for the Young Democrats from Indiana—made a lasting impression on Baltimore's former mayor. "My parents raised us all to believe we could make a difference in this world and that we could help other people," he says.
Whatever his endeavors, Barbara, who now works as an aide to Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, has always offered her oldest son support, from encouraging him to run for student council in his middle school days to dragging the family to watch his early performances with his Celtic rock band. ("We would sit at separate tables to make it look like there was a crowd," she says with a laugh.) Her maternal support even extended to helping him get in some much-needed shut-eye on the bus during the last day of the 2006 election. "By that time in the campaign, you are utterly and totally depleted, and you want nothing but to sleep," says O'Malley. Knowing that his mother would never let him sleep through a stop, he felt comfortable enough to nap. And she knew just how to wake him: "The bus driver would click on Springsteen's 'Land of Hope and Dreams,' and mom would say, 'It's time to wake up!'" O'Malley recalls. Chuckles Barbara, "If I had just had a Bruce Springsteen record when he was little, it would have been a lot easier to wake him up."
Jennifer & Grace Gilbert
Photographed at Jennifer's two-bedroom apartment, Baltimore
February 3, 1968. I entered into this world at 8:09 and weighed 6 lbs., 10 oz., 20-inches long at the West Grove Community Memorial Hospital. A sunny day but rather cold.
So begins the first diary entry of Fox 45 weekday anchor Jennifer Gilbert, "ghost written" by her mother, Grace, in a small, blue leather journal. Today those diaries—one for each of Jennifer's 41 years—are still going strong, though Jennifer (now the mother of 21-month-old Michael) assumed her own writing responsibilities when she turned 12. "I kept a diary from the day she was born," says Grace, "and I gave them to her after Michael was born so that she can compare herself to him." Says Jennifer, "It really is incredible to have these. I've been following along my development with my son's development—when I first crawled, when I said my first word."
Although Jennifer juggles a demanding, high-profile job with being a wife and mother, the Emmy award-winning journalist still writes in a journal almost daily. "Sometimes, when I'm just sitting on the set and there is nothing to do, I will make notes," says Jennifer, an only child. "I hope it's as meaningful to my son some day as my mother's entries were to me."
Grace has passed along other traditions to Jennifer, including baking Christmas cookies, making preserves from scratch, and taking hikes on the 36-acre grounds of the Chester County, PA farm where Jennifer grew up. "Whenever life gets busy, my mom and I go on hikes together," says Jennifer. "Our closest times together have always been going for walks."
Despite Jennifer's success, Grace is proud that her daughter still makes family her number-one priority. "She has a great job," says Grace, "but she has never forgotten what life is all about. She has kept her roots—family always comes first."
Joyce J. & Elizabeth Talford Scott
Photographed at home, Baltimore
Joyce Scott sits in the living room of the Baltimore home she and her mother, Elizabeth, have shared for 33 years. This vibrant space, brimming with beaded baskets, African masks, and Mexican folk art, mirrors Joyce's technicolor life as a world-renowned multimedia artist and educator. Elizabeth, an artist in her own right—her sense of beauty was born of a childhood spent picking cotton and living in a one-room South Carolina cabin with 12 siblings—was her daughter's first art teacher.
"My mother was always making things prettier and artier," recalls Joyce. "She didn't just mend a hole in a towel or pillowcase, she made an appliqué. If there were a nick in your garment, she would embroider it or add beads to it. That came out of a place of not having and wanting to elevate her environment."
Elizabeth always encouraged her daughter's artistic endeavors, even some of her more off-the-wall creations (such as a Hula Hoop Joyce once sewed into the hem of a skirt and wore to school). "My mom was always supportive of me," says Joyce, "no matter how silly I was."
When Joyce told Elizabeth that she wanted to pursue a career in art, "She taught me the quest to live a creative life—to always have flowers or a garden or to have the house painted or wallpapered in a different way," recalls Joyce. "She taught me to not settle for the status quo or a less accomplished life."
Although Elizabeth, 93, is now bedridden with dementia, Joyce—whose dining room has been converted into a bedroom she shares with her mother—is still learning from the woman she affectionately calls "pooty" ("Southern for fart," Joyce cracks). "I was showered with love," says Joyce. "Caring for my mother has brought out that side of me. Your heart opens up in a different way—it changes color. It is the easiest thing to give back."
Hilary & Anne Hahn
Photographed at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore
"When I was growing up, I always wanted to take lessons whether it was horseback riding, painting, or dance," says Anne, mother of two-time Grammy-winning classical violin phenom Hilary Hahn, 29. "But my parents didn't believe in giving [all those] lessons. I used to say, 'When I have a child, they will get what I didn't have!'" True to her word, Anne enrolled her only child in swimming, ballet, and gymnastics. But it was upon registering Hilary in a Suzuki violin program at The Peabody Institute (one month shy of her fourth birthday) that her daughter found her lifelong passion.
By age 10, Hilary showed so much promise that her father, Steve, gave up his career as a librarian, so that Hilary could attend Philadelphia's famed Curtis Institute of Music. Anne, now controller of Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, continued to work full time, joining the rest of the family on weekends while fortifying her daughter and husband with big batches of homemade beef stew for the freezer of their Philadelphia apartment. The decision to let her daughter go to Curtis was a difficult one. "There was a lot of pressure to know I was making the right decisions for her," says Anne. "We decided it was worth the risk."
Cleary, it paid off. At 12, Hilary debuted as a soloist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (she will perform a newly commissioned concerto with them June 4-7). Today, she appears with orchestras all over the world.
"On the one hand, I am in awe of what she can do," Anne says of her daughter. "But I'm so proud that she is an ordinary person who is kind and loves animals." The admiration is mutual. "As time passes, I understand what my mom did for me," says Hilary. "I can see how difficult it must be to be a parent and raise a child and feel like you're doing it the right way. She has been an amazing mom and so great to have in my life."
Cal Jr. & Violet "Vi" Ripken
Photographed on the Club Level of Cal Sr.'s Yard, Aberdeen
"Growing up, my mom was mom and dad," says Hall of Fame baseball player Cal Ripken Jr. "Baseball took my dad away from us." Vi accepted the rigors of rearing four children on her own as something that was part and parcel of being married to a minor-league manager. "Our life was no different than someone who was a truck driver or someone who was in the service separated from their husband," says Vi. "You just step up to the plate. I was the pinch hitter all the time."
When Cal Sr. was on the road, Cal Jr. and his siblings often piled into the family car, and Vi drove great distances (including one trip as far away as South Dakota) to reunite the kids with their dad. "Mom says you just do what you have to do, but certainly she kept us all together," says Cal, now president and CEO of Ripken Baseball Group (which owns three minor-league baseball teams and runs youth camps, among other ventures). "We relied on each other a lot because we left the structure of friends back home and went to a new environment. We did everything together—we played cards, we laughed, we fought. Mom put us in bowling leagues and youth activities in different places, and, wherever we went, we invented a game of baseball based on our space."
These days, the 48-year-old former shortstop and third basemen can't go anywhere without exposure to adoring fans. But neither Cal nor Vi can make sense of all the adulation. "It's hard for me to understand why someone would be overjoyed with me," says Cal who shattered Lou Gehrig's record with 2,632 consecutive games and spent his entire 21-year career with the Orioles. Adds Vi, "I know why I'm proud of him, but I don't know what the fixation is. His job when he went into baseball was to play, to bat, and to field balls. His job was to work at getting better, but if he hadn't achieved that greatness, it wouldn't have meant anything less to me."
Kevin & Jayne Plank
Photographed at his weekend retreat, Sagamore Farm, Hunt Valley
Kevin Plank learned his earliest business lessons from his mother, Jayne.
"I was the youngest of five," says Kevin, who traveled with his mother for her work in the State Department and was frequently forced to mingle with the children of other elected officials. "I'd have to figure out how to walk up and say, 'Hi, my name is Kevin.'" Says Jayne, who was also a four-term mayor of Kensington: "He has the same theory I have, which is that there are no strangers, just friends you haven't met."
Kevin also adopted his mother's strong work ethic: While other kids slept in on a snowy day, he looked for ways to make money. "I've never been much of a sleeper," says the 36-year-old sports apparel mogul, "so I'd shovel snow—10 dollars a driveway—and make a hundred bucks."
In 1996, with little more than a bolt of compression fabric, Kevin began Under Armour in the basement of his grandmother's Georgetown home. In the company's first year, it made $17,000. Last year alone, the company's net revenues totaled $725.2 million.
Not that the road to success was without hurdles: "Should I tell the story of coming home after one of your high school parties?" teases Jayne.
"You mean when you couldn't find the rugs because I had rolled them up and sent them to the dry cleaner?" asks Kevin. (Yes, that story.)
"Well, I would have put them back, but I couldn't afford the bill to pay for the cleaning," Kevin confesses.
Today, Kevin can afford the dry cleaning bill and much more—Jayne proudly sports a stunning pair of turquoise earrings that he bought her. "Growing up, my mother was the most important person in my life," says Kevin. "It wasn't an athlete. It wasn't Michael Jordan. It was my mom. She was always my inspiration and my idol."
Mickey & Sandi Cucchiella
Photographed at the Perry Hall home of Mickey's sister, Gina
Even before birth, Mickey Cucchiella made his mother, Sandi, smile. "I laughed through my entire pregnancy," says Sandi. "When he was born, he was like, 'Here I am world.' He came out ready to go and has never stopped since."
Though teachers found him charming, the 40-year-old host of 98 Rock's Mickey, Amelia & Spiegel Show played the part of the disruptive class clown. "By third grade, it had gotten so bad that my teacher called my mom and said, 'If you can get him to be quiet until the school day is almost over, during the last 20 minutes, I will let him come up and entertain the class,'" Mickey laughs. "I was getting 20 minutes of stand-up in third grade!"
Home life, however, was no laughing matter. Mickey's mother had Hodgkin's disease and by ninth grade, Mickey had called it quits in school. "I didn't know why it mattered," he says. "I knew what I wanted to do, and [school] was getting in my way."
Laughter became Mickey's medicine for the whole family. "He was my go-to-guy who had a calming effect on everybody," recalls Sandi. "He had a way of making situations that were bad funny."
Tough times only got tougher. In 2005, Sandi contracted an infection so serious that the family was told to make funeral arrangements. Amazingly, Sandi recovered, but doctors had to amputate her hands and feet to save her life. Shortly after Sandi's discharge from the hospital, Mickey got a gig performing stand-up to a sold-out crowd at The Hippodrome Theatre. "It was the proudest moment of my career," he says, "but I was worried my mom wasn't going to make it. When I walked out on stage to a standing ovation, and my mom was in the first row of the balcony directly in front of me, I remember thinking, 'This is the greatest moment of my life.'"