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Elizabeth Cook: Thanks, Mom and almost-moms

No one can take the place of a mom, but when you move far from home, it helps to have a few surrogates.
My mom made the 300-mile trip from Fredericksburg, Va., countless times as our girls were born and baptized and raised in Salisbury.
Thank you, Mom.
But when Mom couldn’t be around, other women took me under their wing and taught me some important lessons as we settled into Salisbury.
This thought struck me as I was munching on food from Hoff’s Grill. The batter-dipped fries reminded me of the Chicken Shack fries that Cary Grant used to bring us at the Fashion Garden long ago.
I’m not talking about the movie star. This Cary Grant is better — the husband of Sandra Grant, the first woman to take me under her wing in Salisbury.
Fresh out of journalism school and newly married, I wanted a newspaper job — my first step on the road to being the next Woodward or Bernstein. But the Salisbury Post did not have an opening and I didn’t have the newspaper experience the Post required of new hires anyway.
I had, however, worked in dress shops several summers to earn spending money.
So having struck out at the Post, WSTP, a local employment agency and a bank that was advertising for tellers, I took at job selling clothes at the Fashion Garden.
It was Sandra’s store, the realization of a dream she’d had while working in other stores for other people. The Fashion Garden was on the Square, where Spanky’s is now. Kelly green carpet covered the floor and the walls were painted bright yellow. It was the ’70s.
The clothes were great, but the best benefit of working at the Fashion Garden — besides batter-dipped fries delivered by Cary — was learning about Salisbury from a native. As customers came and went and pedestrians walked by, Sandra introduced me to the Who’s Who of Salisbury — that is, she told me who was who, priceless information to a newcomer.
Thank you, Sandra Grant.

After about six months at the Fashion Garden, I landed a newspaper job at the Daily Independent in Kannapolis. A couple of months there was all I needed for the Post to consider me experienced enough, and soon I was working at the Salisbury Post. My first beat consisted of agriculture and southern Rowan.
Once we both had good jobs, Ed and I began to put down roots. We bought a house after a year or two in town. And two doors down from our little brick house on Maupin Avenue lived Mary and C.V. Stevens.
They extended a protective wing, too, and improved our lives immeasurably with a simple question: Didn’t we want to visit their church? We wound up joining First Presbyterian and have been part of that church family ever since.
Thank you, Mary Stevens.

My most attentive surrogate mother — the mother of all mothers — was Salisbury Post writer Rose Post.
I met Rose when I was working for the Daily Independent and we were both covering the Rowan County Board of Education. A shy young reporter, I was happy to sit silently on the sidelines at meetings. But Rose was known to speak up now and then and raise questions that needed to be asked.
That impressed me. Then when I came to the Post, I was impressed again by her endless energy and ability to juggle family and work. Her five children ranged from about middle school to just-out-of-college then, I think, and they called frequently. I picture Rose with a phone eternally propped at her ear, just as likely to be talking to one of her children as a source.
The most impressive thing about Rose was her bottomless capacity to care — about everyone. The news business can make a person jaded, but not Rose. Everyone has a story, she said, and she treated each person as if they were telling her the most fascinating story she ever heard.
She taught me a tough-love approach to one thing, though. Apparently she was on the phone at home a lot, too, because she had a rule for children who interrupted her phone conversations to ask a question. If you have to have an answer right now, she said, the answer is no.
Since kids are usually looking for a yes, that did it.
That’s just the tip of the lessons-from-Rose iceberg. Rose is gone now, but she made an indelible impression.
Thank you, Rose Post — and Happy Mother’s Day.

Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.

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