A Letter To My First Editor


My mother, Judith “Judy” Spikes was my first editor.

It’s no surprise. If you (partially) name your kid after your favorite writer, you will probably be more than okay with her showing an interest in writing.

Judy was a great woman. She died of cancer in 1995, at the age of 52.

If your mom is still with you, I hope that you enjoy this upcoming weekend with her.

Or, if your mother is no longer here, please know that you are not alone. And I hope that this weekend will bring you some peace and comfort.

This is my mom, Judy Spikes, at work during the early 1990s.


Either way, I hope all of you will find some encouragement and inspiration in this letter.

Dear Mom,

Thanks for being a wonderful person.

I didn’t always know it, but your love was unconditional for every member of our family. You knew each of our strengths and our weaknesses.

I call you my first editor because I remember creating a newsletter for you. I was in the second grade at that time. The newsletter was on a few sheets of notebook paper and I wrote about what was going on in my class, usually during the past week and what I thought about recent class events.

I remember there was this kid, I think his name was Jeremy. (Note to readers: This is not the same Jeremy from the Pearl Jam song.) I called him a jerk in one of my newsletter stories, because he was always getting into fights with some of the other boys at school.

You said the story was good, but calling people jerks isn’t good.

I admit, I haven’t always followed your advice to avoid name-calling.

But I’m so glad that you encouraged me to write. I’m glad that you encouraged me to do my best, especially in school. You were thrilled when I did well in certain subjects and activities. But you weren’t visibly crushed if I got a bad grade (or a few bad grades).

You suggested I try certain clubs and activities. For example, I’m so glad that you strongly encouraged me to attend a summer meeting for a community service group called the Fayetteville Cumberland County Youth Council. Those kids were kind of weird. So obviously, I loved the group.

Speaking of weird, thanks for my weird name. My original first name is Jamaya. It’s pronounced, “Ha-MY-yah” (Or, as I spent most of the first month of every school year explaining, “The ‘J’ is pronounced like an ‘H’, like most Spanish words that start with ‘J’.”)

“Jamaya” is a Spanish-influenced name you created. It’s a nod to you being from Panama. And you named me (in part) after the prolific, late writer Maya Angelou. These days, most people call me Maya. I like that name, but I like Jamaya too.

I never met Maya Angelou. But I feel like I miss both of you.

I wish you both of you were still here.

But as for you, Mom, sometimes, I’m glad you’re not here. Sometimes, I’m kind of glad that you were not able to physically walk into my apartment and see that, at times, my life was a literal mess.

But then I remember, again, that you loved each family member, with a full understanding of our strengths and weaknesses.

So, this Mother’s Day, I face an upcoming milestone birthday and career changes that will hopefully be for better and not for worse.

And I’m grateful to have a mom who dreamed and hoped that I would rise, even while facing life’s challenges.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Your daughter,



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Did this post inspire and help you? How did your mom encourage you? Share your favorite memories about your mom or about being a mom in the comments below.