The Big 10 with Jeff D'Alessio, Mother's Day edition
From the Waltons to the Huxtables, all great made-for-TV families have a mighty mom at the helm.
So, we ask: Growing up, which fictional matriarch was your mom most like?
Director of special education, Champaign schools
"Clair Huxtable. My mom's really fun — she would dress up in ridiculous hats and sing songs, embarrassing us publicly or privately. She told us when we were doing something stupid and how we better fix ourselves. Mostly, she's like Clair because she allowed my dad to feel like he was in charge when she and everyone else knew that she was running the show."
Cheerleading coach, University of Illinois
"Like Lucy Ricardo, my mom always seemed to find herself in funny situations — often after my dad had asked her not to do something. Like Lucy, she is a child at heart and often couldn't help herself and ended up doing something that would cause some sort of predicament. Her solutions for getting out of situations were never the logical, straightforward solutions; they always led to additional complications.
"When we were shopping for my wedding dress, we headed to a bridal shop in St. Louis. Our car stalled on the bridge right before the exit by the Arch. She went into an immediate panic about how we were going to get hit by the cars flying past us.
"The first solution was to draw an arrow on a piece of paper and put in our back window, to direct cars around us. There is no way that any car was able to see her pencil-drawn arrow on a small piece of paper but she was sure it was helping.
"Her next solution was that we should get out of the car, so we wouldn't be inside when someone hit us. Never mind that we would be in even more danger just standing on the bridge. Finally, she said we could always jump into the water because it looked pretty calm and it wasn't that far of a jump.
"I ended up calling the police and, at the same time, tried to start the car again. The car started and we made it off the exit ramp. The police officer met us to offer assistance and, after he helped make sure we were OK, she offered to pay him for his help. Nothing like offering to pay a police officer for doing his job.
"We tease my mom a lot for the goofy situations she gets into and how she responds but the best part about her is that she's able to laugh about her mistakes — and at herself. In fact, she's usually the first one to share a funny story about what she's done. There's always laughter when I'm around my mom — and that's one of the favorite things my girls love about her today. She always makes them laugh."
Coroner, Vermilion County
"My mother is so unique that I'd say she's a combination of several. She had seven kids and my dad traveled all week for his job. She spoke softly and carried what she called a 'po po paddle' for discipline. There was never a shortage of love, guidance and patience, and she taught us to look for the good in people.
"When I started working at the coroner's office 22 years ago and would stop in her home for coffee after a long night of work, she always said, 'Oh no! Did someone die?' Yes, Mom. That's why I was out all night working. It took her years not to ask.
"I know I'm not the only one out there who adores their mother, but she is truly my inspiration. She's 88 years young and still never ceases to amaze me."
Curriculum director, Paxton-Buckley-Loda schools
"Elyse Keaton from 'Family Ties.' My mom also attended college in the late '60s and early '70s, and was known among my friends for always pushing the boundaries of fashion trends — for example, she was wearing Birkenstocks years before they were cool in central Illinois. In many ways, she was a typical junior high school teacher, farm-wife and mother, but she was very open-minded and she taught my brother and me to consider all perspectives before judging or forming opinions.
"Also, ironically, our family owned a houseboat together. It was named 'Family Tighes.'"
Deputy fire marshal, Champaign
"Although my mom always worked outside our home — juggling family, work, church and chores — there are some things about Mrs. Parker in 'A Christmas Story' that remind me of her.
"She knew that Dad didn't necessarily need to know about everything. She made sure our crazy neighbor's children ate; they were like the Bumpus 'hillbillies.' She even believed in washing a naughty mouth out with soap — but went ballistic when a neighbor did it to one of us. Plus, I have no doubt if my dad had won that sexy leg lamp as a 'major prize,' it would have met with the same oops at the hands of my mom.
"Luckily, Mom is 87 and still making each Christmas wonderful — even without my brother getting a BB gun."
Commissioner, Champaign Park District
"My mom was Olivia Walton in so many ways. She was a loving mother who was an excellent cook and seamstress. She expected all 10 of us Solon children to obey the rules, to be up at the crack of dawn to pitch in around the farm and help each other and the neighbors. There was never any excuse for not going to church or doing well in school.
"In high school, we had a Friday midnight curfew in our home. Doors were locked at midnight and we were got given keys. If you weren't home on time, tough luck. My brother Tony and I decided we would just unlock the downstairs bathroom window as our safety net. If we were late, we'd have our friends drop us off at the end of the lane and we'd climb through the window. This worked really well until one night, as we finished climbing through the window at about 1 a.m., the bathroom light came on and my mom was standing there. She was not amused.
"She made my brother and I climb back out the window and we were not allowed in the house until the door was unlocked at 6 a.m."
Superintendent, Fisher schools
"If you could fuse the personalities of Olivia Walton, Sophia Petrillo from 'The Golden Girls,' Violet Crawley from 'Downton Abby' and M'Lynn Eatenton from 'Steel Magnolias,' you might come close. My mom and dad raised four kids, and my mom always worked hard, had a great sense of humor, set high expectations, valued family traditions, showed endless compassion for others and loved us with all her might. She also had some sort of sixth sense and knew what we were thinking, feeling or up to — sometimes before we knew."
Director, Champaign Public Library
"Probably a combination of Wonder Woman, Clair Huxtable and Cleopatra. Wonder Woman, because she could handle bales of hay with the best of them and then whip up a huge dinner in no time. Clair Huxtable, because she was the boss and a disciplinarian of her five kids. And Cleopatra, because she was one of the most beautiful women ever, with a commanding presence at 5-foot-10 and long black hair. It's that Cherokee blood."
Executive vice president, Cozad Asset Management
"I'd say Alicia Florrick, Julianna Margulies' character in 'The Good Wife.' My mom was one of the few women in my small hometown who went to work every day back in the '50s and '60s. She and my dad ran a business together. But it never stopped her from knowing exactly what we were up to and being there for us when we needed her.
"When my brother and I coaxed our younger sister onto the roof of our house from an open window — and then shut the window, trapping her on the roof — Mom mysteriously pulled into the driveway and immediately knew we were the culprits. She did believe in discipline.
"My mom didn't have to deal with a husband who just returned from the penitentiary like Alicia but she did have a husband who was legally blind, which created its own set of challenges. I was always amazed at how she was able to keep it all together. I think the martini she had in her hand every night helped her mellow at the end of the day, just as Alicia turns to a glass of wine to segue from attorney to mom."
President and owner, Taylor Studios
"My mom is most like Caroline Ingalls. Partially, I say that because it was a common show we all watched when I was a kid. My mother liked the moral values of the show. She also went to school in a one-room school house. If those types of dresses had still been in fashion, I could see her wearing them too.
"I believe my mother would be disappointed with the type of TV shows common today, as they do not teach the character and values she thought we should live by."
Village trustee, Mahomet
"Mother Walton. We grew up on a farm. We gardened, canned, raised animals and were at church every time it was open, even when it was time to clean. Her God! Church and family always came first — and still do at 84.
"I had the best mom ever. They do not make them like that anymore."
Dean of students, Urbana High School
"It would be Clair Huxtable of 'The Cosby Show.' My mom is a diligent woman of integrity and she loves my brother and I. She invoked in us a sense of needing an education and to go above and beyond when interacting with the public.
"When she got angry at us ... I will just leave that to your imagination."
Vice president/student services, Parkland College
"I don't want to be disrespectful to my mother by selecting what has been called one of the worst sitcoms ever, but how about 'My Mother the Car'? The 1928 Porter touring car is about the right age, and was beautifully maintained. 'She' also was extremely resourceful. There aren't many people who can outdo my mother's self-discipline and organizational abilities, but the best examples of that probably should remain family secrets."
Media specialist, St. Joseph-Ogden High
"My mom was the Lucille Ball of my hometown. With her red hair and sly sense of humor, it was a natural comparison. Halloween was her second-favorite holiday — after Christmas. One year, she and two of her friends dressed up as the Keystone Cops. They visited the local Lions Club Halloween party, stopped by a bar, 'checked IDs' of the patrons and escorted a young woman into the house after a date with her future husband, to be sure she got into the house safely."
Drama director, Tuscola High
"While there is no one quite like my mom, she most reminds me of Marmee from 'Little Women.' Marmee was a strong and independent role model for her daughters, just like my mom has always been for me. Marmee kept her sense of humor while letting her daughters make their own mistakes, but in the end she was always there for them. Lately, when people tell me that I am turning into my mother, I simply say 'Thank you,' for I believe that is the greatest compliment of all."