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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR READERS: Mothers come in all sizes and colors. Some are traditional, while others are not. But one thing is true about mothers everywhere. The role they have assumed is both the hardest job in the world and the most rewarding. Because today is Mother's Day. I extend my best wishes to all of you -- whether you are birth mothers, stepmothers, adoptive mothers, foster mothers or mothers-in-law.

DEAR ABBY: Every year on Mother's Day, you feature letters about cake-baking, hugs-and-kisses mothers. The stories are heartwarming, but all of the women depicted seem to have been cut from the same schmaltzy cookie cutter.

My mom, Kitty Myrtle White, was a beautiful, 5-foot-tall, heck-raising Texas lady who could drink any strong man under the table and out-cuss any drunken sailor. A single mom in the '40s, when there was no welfare, Mom worked 12-hour days to support her three children. Even though her job required that she carry large sums of cash to the bank every day (we lived in a tough part of town), Mom never worried about being robbed. On top of being a tough little broad, she also carried a snub-nosed .38 caliber revolver in her purse and was a crack shot. Twice, would-be assailants were sent on their way with bleeding scalps after Mom "parted their hair" with an accurately swung R.C. Cola bottle. Mom was scared of nothing!

To relax in the evenings, Mom would entertain her beaus in our living room. All she ever needed was a table, a bottle of Four Roses whiskey, music from our radio and a man. Since she was one of Texas' greatest storytellers, what she really wanted from her "gentlemen" was an audience.

With great Southern charm, she would sit them down at the table with a drink and then tell them endless tales about the crazy people she'd known and her own "eccentric" family. When a hot tune would come onto the radio, she'd "boogie-woogie" with her guy while holding her cocktail in her hand. When the song ended, she'd let out a loud rebel yell, slug down her drink and slam the empty glass into the fireplace. Because of her zany ways, some of her dates waited for the opportunity, then bolted out our side door. (Some were never heard from again.)

Mom was a genuine character and was much loved by her kids and just about everyone who knew her. So, Abby, this year, instead of printing one of those mushy mom stories, remember that not all good mothers are cut from that same pious piece of cloth. -- KITTY'S KID IN GLENDALE, ARIZ.

DEAR KITTY'S KID: Your letter proves that it doesn't always take an apron and a cookie recipe to be a loving, caring mother. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: In 1993, when my husband was leaving for college, he wrote his mother a Mother's Day thank-you letter. In it, he thanked her for everything from turning leftovers into new meals, to reminding him to always put on clean underwear. The letter, two handwritten pages long, came from his heart.

My beloved mother-in-law kept that letter in her jewelry box with her other treasures. Cancer took her recently, but before she died, she asked my husband to read it at her funeral. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when he finished. Little did he know 13 years ago, how deeply meaningful it would be.

So I challenge your readers this year: Write your mothers a letter telling them how much you love and appreciate them. Believe me, it will last a lot longer than flowers or candy. I hope I'm lucky enough someday to receive a letter like that from my daughters. -- NICOLE IN ORANGE COUNTY

DEAR NICOLE: And I hope your wish is granted.

Happy Mother's Day!

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