With Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, we wanted to do something to celebrate all of the moms out there. But capturing the depth of this meaningful and influential role seemed a bit daunting. So, we reached out to six local mother-daughter Birmingham pairs to let the mothers and their daughters reflect on their special relationships. From their most cherished advice and favorite traditions to how they’ve inspired and changed each other, these mother-daughter musings will make you want to run get a big ol’ bear hug from your mother — and just in time for Mother’s Day!

6 Mother-Daughter Pairs Share Inspirations, Lessons & Memories

Anna Erdreich & Ellen Cooper Erdreich

Anna Erdreich (left) & Ellen Cooper Erdreich (right)

Mother: Ellen Cooper Erdreich, Ph.D., art historian, UAB; American University, Washington, D.C. (retired); Artist
Daughter: Anna Erdreich, real estate developer; Sofia and Asher’s bus driver, activities director and mother

What is the best piece of advice your mother ever gave you?

Ellen: My mother was a woman ahead of her time. One small bit of seemingly comical advice she gave me was: “Learn how to type very well, but don’t tell others you know how.” Clearly she was suggesting that I not limit myself to one of the few trades most often available to young women in the 1950s — nursing, teaching or secretarial work. I may have typed faster than anyone in Miss Daniel’s class at Shades Valley High School, but I did not spread that information broadly.

Anna: “It will always grow back” was a common refrain after many a seemingly disastrous haircut. There are things in life that happen that you can dwell on or look at as half empty, but my mother showed me that there was always another day, another effort to make, another perspective to take, another haircut to try — with patience and maybe a little better homework, maybe some help and advice, you can always improve and change. And by all means, it isn’t a requirement that you dye your grey hair!

Share a heartwarming or special tradition that you enjoy together.

Ellen: One way or another, everyone in this family enjoys making or creating things. When I began to travel while my children were very young, I began filling little envelopes addressed to each with tiny hearts, a practice I continued for summer camp. When [my husband] Ben was in Congress, we traveled constantly between Washington and Birmingham. The children stayed in school in D.C. During the same years, I regularly traveled to the world’s great libraries studying manuscripts for a doctoral dissertation. Johns Hopkins sent me to Florence, Italy, for six months just as Anna entered high school, and, having arrived in Europe, I discovered in my suitcase a decorated envelope full of enough hearts to last a LONG time. I still have some, just in case!

Anna: When my daughter first went off to sleep-away camp, I spent many hours drawing a heart for each day, finally realizing the commitment and love that it really takes to make each and every one special. By the time my daughter left for a three-month stint in Switzerland at 13, the daunting task turned into a wonderful morning spent with my mom making enough hearts in enough variations together to fill the months. We giggled and collaborated enough in those few hours that the end product had more than twice the love to carry my daughter through many a chilly night. Love can come in many forms, creative and on paper, for when you are far away, and it is one of our best traditions.

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How does she inspire you?

Ellen: Anna and I share many interests, and I must say it is a very great gift to have the members of the next generation around; they don’t hesitate to put traditional creations to new uses. Anna recently asked for one of my very small paintings, and, when I next saw it, it had grown to a dramatic height of eight feet and was “papering” the walls of my granddaughter’s bedroom — fantastic!

Anna: How on earth did she do it all? How did she cook us French specialties and homemade bread when she was teaching classes and getting her doctorate? Take ballet? Bike to work? How did she cultivate lifelong friends from such varied backgrounds wherever she went? How did she learn so many languages? Read so many books? My mother inspires me to find things you are passionate about and dive deep. She is one of the smartest women I know, and it shows in how she shares her special interests with us and my children.

Avani Patel & Rupa Patel

Avani Patel (left) & Rupa Patel (right)

Mother: Rupa Patel, owner and jewelry designer, Avani Rupa Fine Jewelers
Daughter: Avani Patel, owner, GIA Graduate Gemologist and Jewelry Designer, Avani Rupa Fine Jewelers

What is the best piece of advice your mother ever gave you?

Rupa: Do good for others not to be rewarded but just to do the right thing. Never hold a grudge. Enjoy life!

Avani: It is never too late in life to accomplish your goals and dreams! Always go for it, stay confident and tell yourself, “I can do it!”

Share a special tradition that you enjoy together.

Rupa: We love to cook together for our special holidays, family gatherings and parties!

Avani: One of my favorite memories growing up was how my mom and I always made my favorite foods on my birthday! I got to choose the entire menu and as many things as I wanted. It just made me feel so special and like a princess on my special day!

How does she inspire you?

Rupa: Avani always gives me the best advice. She keeps me running and going!

Avani: My mom’s determination, strong will and pure grit are absolutely inspiring to me. She is the best role model – reminding me to pursue my dreams with a positive attitude!

Grace Bittick, Mimi Major & Margot Bittick

From left to right: Grace Bittick, Mimi Major & Margot Bittick

Mother: Mimi Major, Pepper Place community manager and events coordinator
Daughters: Margot Bittick (10) and Grace Bittick (6)

What is the best piece of advice your mother ever gave you?

Mimi: My mother wasn’t big on advice, but she went back to school in her 40s to get her degree in landscape design and became well-known in the field around the Southeast. Several of her gardens were published. She taught me it is never too late to reinvent yourself.

Margot: What’s on the inside is all that matters — being kind is the most important thing.

Grace: Eat healthy!

Share a surprising or funny memory or fact about them that you cherish.

Mimi: I love to travel with my girls. I have so many memories of discovering new beaches, hiking paths, cartwheels on the lawn in front of the Biltmore Estate. We are all about an adventure!

Margot: Going to New York for my 10th birthday was the BEST!

Grace: All of our beach trips — watching the Destin 4th of July fireworks on a boat and seeing dolphins.

Share a special tradition that you enjoy together.

Mimi: We love to have dance parties! My house is usually filled with singing and dancing. The girls like to make music videos too!

Margot and Grace: We love family movie night. Mommy lets us watch movies from when she was growing up. Father of the Bride has been one of our favorites so far!

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How does your mother (or your daughters) inspire you?

Mimi: My daughter Margot is the sweetest person I know. She is the girl everyone gets along with. I am so proud of who she is and who she is becoming. My daughter Grace battled cancer when she was 3, and she did it with such “grace” and strength, she changed my life.

Margot: She works really hard.

What have your daughters taught you, and what has your mom taught you?

Mimi: Both of my girls have taught me what really matters in life, and I try not to sweat the small stuff. They have taught me what it really means to love unconditionally. I am a better person because of them. When I asked Margot this question she said “Mama, you’ve taught us like everything,” but the truth is they have taught ME everything!

Margot: You have taught me not doubt myself.

Grace: I really like cooking with you.

Chara Gill & Phoenix Gill

Chara Gill (left) & Phoenix Gill (right)

Mother: Chara Gill, Library Media Specialist, Ed.S., Bush Hills Academy
Daughter: Phoenix Gill (13), 8th grade student at William J. Christian K-8 School

What is the best piece of advice she has given you?

Chara: The best piece of advice that Phoenix ever gave me was to practice patience with all children. She is particular about that.

Phoenix: To be humble.

Share a funny memory or surprising fact about her that you cherish.

Phoenix: We were bowling and she threw the ball and stepped into the lane a little and the bowling ball took her down the alley (laughs).

Chara: She’s been laughing at me since that happened 5 years ago (smiles). A surprising fact about Phoenix is that she is a rapper (laughs). It’s hilarious. So, she told me that she was a rapper and she had been asking me to buy her studio time, and I thought that was hilarious, and then I went to the school and all of the teachers knew about her rapping. She was like, “You think I’m just playing with you. Do you want me to show you?” So, I listened to her rap, and it was phenomenal. She has written poems and music since she was old enough to write at age 4. So, the fact that she transferred her poetic energy into actual rapping is delightfully hilarious to me.

Share a special tradition that you enjoy together.

Chara: Phoenix has a Christmas birthday, Dec. 24th, so me, my mother and her get matching pajamas and spend the night at my mom’s house, drinking cocoa and watching Christmas movies on Netflix.

How does she inspire you?

Chara: Phoenix inspires me, because she was born premature, with a cleft palate and lip and has had 15 surgeries, and she has cyclic vomiting syndrome … and no matter what the odds are against her, she is determined to defeat them and pushes herself to grow tremendously. She just doesn’t let it stop her or slow her down at all. Her determination inspires me every day.

Phoenix: She works hard at her job. She doesn’t give attitudes when a coworker upsets her. She is really pleasant and just extraordinary. She inspires me to work hard with my school work and she pushes me.

What has she taught you?

Chara: She has taught me that everybody is different, and you have to be able to embrace people for who they are.

Phoenix: She taught me to love everybody and respect adults, because you might have a wonderful outcome when you humble yourself are respectful to others.

Angela Ellis Thornton & Carlyle Thornton

Angela Ellis Thornton (left) & Carlyle Thornton (right)

Mother: Angela Ellis Thornton, paralegal and real estate professional
Daughter: Carlyle Thornton, marketing and communications manager, Liberty Park Joint Venture, LLP

What is the best piece of advice she ever gave you?

Carlyle: If you work hard and do what you’re supposed to, success will always follow.

Angela: She said, “Don’t worry about my sisters and their life choices. If I managed to grow into a mature adult, then they will too!”

Share a special memory or fact about her that you cherish.

Carlyle: As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to look at my mom more as a “real person” and friend. This has been such a special past couple of years in which I’ve grown so much closer to my mother on an entirely different level. From our late-night chats over a glass of wine to a competitive game of pool, I’m truly enjoying this season of life where I’m able to make so many new memories with my mom. The friendship we have now is something I will cherish forever.

Share a special tradition that you enjoy together.

Angela: My daughters make gingerbread houses for Christmas every year, and I get to guess which child made which one and judge whose is the best — always entertaining!

How does she inspire you?

Carlyle: My mother inspires me every single day. She is so confident, outspoken and smart, not to mention selfless. Through all the storms in her life, she has always persevered and put her children first. If I age to be as beautiful and strong-willed as my mother, I’ll be one lucky girl.

What has she taught you?

Angela: My children inspire me to try new things and listen to new music and to simply stay young at heart, to live in the moment. They truly are the poster children for the trend towards mindfulness.

Brenda Meadows & Julie Meadows

Brenda (left) and Julie (right) pose together in the longtime family shop in the heart of Mountain Brook Village.

Mother: Brenda Meadows, owner, The Lingerie Shoppe, Inc.
Daughter: Julie Meadows, inventory control and social media & website manager, The Lingerie Shoppe, Inc.

What is the best piece of advice your mother ever gave you?

Brenda: The best piece of advice my mother gave me, even as a child, was to always wear good underwear. She was a nurse, so “in case you have an accident and have to go to the emergency room and someone sees your underthings, you won’t be embarrassed.” How fitting that for most of my adult life, I have promoted buying “good underwear.”

Julie: My mother’s best piece of advice to me is to pray continually.

Share a special memory or tradition that you enjoy together.

Brenda: Julie and I enjoy sharing our love of theatre. We have been able to share theatre in New
York and the wonderful theatre in Birmingham. My love of theatre extends to going to plays
together, but even better, getting to watch her in a play.

Julie: I am an actress; it is my passion. I was preparing a 50th wedding anniversary slideshow for my parents and was going through all kinds of pictures and found a questionnaire that my mother filled out at a college reunion and one of the questions was something to the effect of “What is one thing you wish you had done as a college student?” And her answer was, “Drama.” I felt a connection to my mother in a way that I hadn’t before.

How does she inspire you or what has she taught you?

Brenda: Julie has always inspired and taught me life lessons in not focusing on money and material
things. This typifies her generous spirit. This spirit also extends to her unbounded love of creatures on four legs. We have grown to share a very tender love for rescue animals.

Julie: My mother is strong, determined, loving and works hard six days a week, 8-plus hours a day — all of these things inspire me.

Now make sure you give your mom a big squeeze and tell her why she inspires you this Mother’s Day!


Guess what? We launched a brand-new podcast called “Southern Voices.” Take a listen to our very first episode, which, in honor of Mother’s Day, is all about motherhood. Click here!