Zachary’s Jewelers announced the winners of its annual Mother’s Day contest on Sunday.

For the past 13 years, kids from area elementary schools have submitted designs for a piece of jewelry and a short explanation. Zachary’s picks three, makes the pieces and presents them to the winners and their moms at a reception in the Main Street shop in Annapolis.

Some of the kids focus more on jewelry, others on their mothers. A few, like Hannah Raspet, reveal personal glimpses of their family life.

“My mom has four babies in heaven and four here on earth. I made the four wings of the butterfly our birthstones to represent myself and my three siblings,” she wrote. “Our youngest sister was also born the same month as our dog, Jackson, and we lost Jackson last year and my mom misses him so much.”

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You probably can’t read Hannah’s entry or the others without thinking of your own mom. I know I did.

I can’t imagine what kind of jewelry I might design if I were to enter Zachary’s contest. I’m far past the age limit, so that’s just as well.

Maybe the only real gift I ever gave my mother, Betty, was what I wrote about her. I wrote about the food she made, the way she opened her home to other people’s kids when they needed a place to stay, and her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. I’ve written a lot about her over the years.

A few months before she passed away in May 2019, I sat on the edge of her bed in an Eastern Shore nursing home. I told her I’d landed on the cover of Time magazine, a small part of four “Person of the Year” covers focused on threats to journalism.

If she knew what I was talking about, she soon forgot. She worried about losing her memories as her Alzheimer’s progressed, and I often said I would remember for her. What I write is part of that promise.

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So, I remember the stories she told about growing up in a house where she did the cleaning and cooking from a very young age. Her mother had a mental illness that meant she was hospitalized for much of her life. My mom learned to cook Cornish pasties for her immigrant father, and pound cake the way his mother made it at home in Penzance, England.

I have a photo of her as a young bride in Washington, D.C., sitting at a table with some friends and my father. It’s the 1950s, and they all look fabulous. Somewhere, I have another snapshot of them, still in their early 20s, looking up at the camera while painting “Hutzell’s” in a white, cursive script atop the black-shingled roof of my grandfather’s Ocean City hotel.

My father and mother, seated to the far left, dressed to the nines in the 1950s.
My father and mother, seated to the far left, dressed to the nines in the 1950s. (Courtesy of Rick Hutzell)

There are pictures of her dark blond hair — done in a tall, 1960s beehive — well into the 1970s. She would talk in those years about going to college, something she always wanted, but never did. The same color tops my head and my daughter’s, both of us with graduate degrees.

When my father began to fall apart because of his insatiable thirst for Cutty Sark and self-destruction, Mom ran their small business to support her five kids. She kept it going well after her second wedding, this time to one of the service techs who helped keep the telecom equipment working.

There were the holiday dinners for 30, or sometimes 40, that she managed with so little apparent effort, producing giant birds and hams, potatoes by the pound, vegetable concoctions by the platterful and whole fleets of pies.

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I’ve spent years trying to recreate that pound cake, even if I’ve never used the enormous pans she used to bake them in tiers for three weddings — including her own to my stepfather.

I am generally pretty cynical about Mother’s Day, and all the other made-up holidays. Now that I think of it, all the holidays were made up at some point, so it’s more accurate to say I’m generally cynical about all of them.

I never designed jewelry for my mother, and I certainly never won a contest for her. I can’t even remember if she wore much of it.

But I can give her this, even now.

Hi, Mom,

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We had an engagement party for our youngest the other day. He and his fiancée seemed so happy, and it made us both so proud to see them standing under the tent in our backyard.

Our daughter has a new job. I suppose she’ll never move back to Annapolis, but she made the long drive with her dog for the party and seems happy where she is.

Cousins and second cousins got measured against the wall in our kitchen, and we added our second dog, too. Thanks for tracing off those early years in our first house. Lots of people said how great a thing that was for you to do.

Wish you had been there to see us all.

I’m still reporting and writing, but I’ve moved to a new job that I like a lot. When we cleaned out your house, I found the silver cup I got for being the high school newspaper editor. It’s here somewhere on my desk, so thanks for keeping it for me.

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Your dog is buried in the backyard next to some of ours. He lived with us happily for years after you had to give him up, and while I can’t say he was sweet, he was loved.

Thanks for being there when I needed you and even when I didn’t.

Happy Mother’s Day 2024.

Love, Rick.

My mom at various points in her life, as a young girl, a high school student, the mother of five and a woman facing Alzheimer's Disease.
My mom at various points in her life, clockwise from upper left; as a woman facing Alzheimer’s disease, as a mother of five, as a young girl, and as a high school student. (Courtesy of Rick Hutzell)

Rick Hutzell is the Annapolis columnist for The Baltimore Banner. He writes about what's happening today, how we got here and where we're going next. The former editor of Capital Gazette, he led the newspaper to a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 2018 mass shooting in its newsroom.

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