The love of a mother

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 8, 2010

By David Vitrano

LAPLACE – Once a mother, always a mother. With many mothers calling their children their babies throughout their adult lives, it’s a sentiment most mothers can identify with. For 74-year-old Virginia Smith, however, the statement rings particularly true.

The New Orleans transplant has been called “mom” for over two-thirds of her life. Her oldest, son Algernon, is 52. Her other two children, daughter Denise and son Albert Jr., are 51 and 41, respectively.

“I had a wonderful time raising them,” she said, adding, “I didn’t have any trouble. I think I did something right.”

Once her children were grown and on their own, though, the mothering did not stop.

“My oldest grandboy is 30 years old. So he considers me as his mother,” said Smith.

That grandchild is one of seven. And now they have started to have offspring of their own, so the cycle continues.

This shared sense of parenting is nothing new, especially in these parts. Smith herself was raised by an aunt and uncle after her mother died while Smith was still young. What makes Smith such an extraordinary mother, however, is the way she brings her nurturing spirit to other aspects of her life.

After Hurricane Katrina destroyed her home, Smith moved around a little, finally settling in an apartment in Lewisville, Texas, for about a year.

Despite the proximity of her new home to her daughter, Smith was not happy in her new hometown. “I didn’t like it. It’s too quiet up there,” said the septuagenarian.

So her sister helped her find a new home in LaPlace at Place Dubourg.

Said Smith, “I’m totally blessed because I found a wonderful apartment with wonderful people.”

The sentiment is mutual. Since her arrival, Smith has resumed her role as mother to some of the less able members of the community.

“I just help everybody,” she said.

One of the ways Smith nurtures her neighbors is through one of her passions — cooking. “My specialty is gumbo. And cabbage.” It seems, however, that the dish she serves up at Place Dubourg most often is that local favorite, red beans and rice.

Most recently she cooked the dish for the funeral of a close friend. “They were the best red beans I ever cooked,” she said.

Aside from cooking, Smith cares for her neighbors in other ways. As one of the Place Dubourg residents who can drive, she is always ready to use that ability for the benefit of others.

“I take people to the grocery store around here,” she said.

And not least among the ways she brightens up the lives of her fellow residents is the love she gives them. She recently stayed overnight with a friend who had just gotten out of the hospital.

“Everyone at Place Dubourg are beautiful people, and I just love them,” she said.

Despite her many years of refining her role as mother, Smith has a simple philosophy when it comes to raising children.

Said Smith, “Just take care of your children. Love them. And try the best you can to be a Christian mother. Love, love, love … and don’t let them talk back to you.”