May 09, 2018

Trade Talk: My mother and I can drive each other nuts. But … (The Oklahoman) »

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 by Paula Burkes  
 Columnist Paula Burkes (from left) is pictured with her mother, Carolyn Burkes, and daughter, Jessica Erickson. [PHOTO PROVIDED]
Columnist Paula Burkes (from left) is pictured with her mother, Carolyn Burkes, and daughter, Jessica Erickson. [PHOTO PROVIDED]

“If you don’t vote for yourself, no one else will.”

It’s one of several wise sayings that my mother has taught me. It dates back to her high school days when she voted for another girl for cheerleader instead of voting for herself, and that girl won by — you guessed it — one vote.

Not that cheerleading ever has been in this klutzy gal’s reality, but my mother’s message resonated all the same: Stand up for yourself. Believe in yourself — whether you’re running for officer of a school club, vying for a job, whatever.

Another Motherism that jumps to mind is “It doesn’t hurt to ask; the worst they can say is ‘No.’” That golden nugget has served me well in life, including most recently, with the requested reversals of non-bank ATM fees charged to my teenage daughter’s high school banking account. Ugh.

But my favorite Carolyn Burkes’ maxim is “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Just because someone erred, even screwed you over, it doesn’t mean it’s OK to do likewise.

My social views come straight from my mother, a former college-level, and now preparatory school, government teacher. She believes in people, as do I. I knew exactly where she stood on the same-sex marriage issue, without asking her — though I, of course, did.

She reminded me of the dissension in the 1960s before interracial marriage was fully legalized. It doesn’t matter what a majority believes on an issue if there’s a civil right being violated.

I’m very proud of my mother. She narrowly lost a state senate seat in 1986. Ballots were spilling out of satchels at the county courthouse, so vote tallying was far from precise.

When we went to bed that election night, my mother was ahead by one vote and polls showed that she’d carry the four outstanding precincts. But the next morning, her opponent was deemed the winner.

Instead of wallowing in sour grapes, my mother and a colleague pushed for, and secured, electronic voting machines in Oklahoma County — an effort for which she won the Liberty Bell Award from the Oklahoma County Bar Association.

My mother’s life legacy clearly is as an educator. With all-but-dissertation status, “Mrs. Burkes” has taught at Classen School of Advanced Studies since historic Classen was reopened in 1994. She has touched the lives of thousands of students through her classes and as sponsor of the Student Council and Asian Club.

My mother and I can drive each other nuts. But she’s always been there when I needed her — like when my best friend died of leukemia 10 years ago, the same weekend that my marriage died. Before my daughter was school age, my mother was there for me every Wednesday night, when she kept Jess overnight while I worked on deadline articles.

This Mother’s Day, my mother will be out of state with my twin sister who — shhh — is treating her to a facial. According to an online survey of 1,000 U.S. adults by Propeller Insights for San Francisco-based cash back shopping site, 46 percent of moms want spa days for Mother’s Day, followed by cards, 40 percent; flowers, 38 percent; and breakfasts in bed, 34 percent.

Per analysis by, the day before Mother’s Day is the biggest day for restaurants in Oklahoma, with sales up 79 percent.

I’m dropping Mother early this morning at the airport and giving her a big hug (she’s not a hugger) for the many life lessons she’s taught me.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mother, aka Mrs. Burkes.

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