The Heroines

LaRilla Combs

is honored with a Brick from Julie A. Burkhart.

 LaRilla  Combs There are so many things I could say about my mom, LaRilla Combs. I could tell you about her educational background and work history. I could tell you how, throughout her career, she has unselfishly extended herself to children and families so they may lead happy, healthy lives. I could tell you about her volunteer activities, how she cares for those who are sick or has helped those in need. I could tell you about her hobbies, how much she enjoys playing the piano (as a child, I fell asleep many nights listening to and comforted by her music off in the distance), or how she reads several books at once or how she loves her solitary trips to the picturesque Canyon Lands of Utah. However, you might find these lengthy tales meaningless and removed since you have, most likely, never met my mom. Instead of giving you her resume and telling you about all the great things she's done in her lifetime, I'll tell you, as her daughter, how she has so profoundly affected my life.

As a small child, I recall feeling the boniness of my mom's collar bone as I lay my head on her shoulder, to be soothed by her gentle pats on my back and by her melodic voice. Even before I consciously knew about love, trust, courage and compassion, I knew these words defined my mom. My mom has been my heroine from the time I took my first step and said my first words. As a child, she nurtured me and showered me with unconditional love. She allowed me to explore and grow into my world.

In 1972, our lives drastically changed. It was the boom of the divorce generation and my mom got caught in the crossfire. Due to these circumstances, she was the only person for years to guide me through my life. In the face of adversity and uncertainty, she remained the same consistent loving mom I had known my first six years. I've always admired the great character and strength she exhibited as she ventured out alone into the world with a child.

After I started elementary school, she created a unique way of waking me in the mornings. She would sit on my bedside and gently tickle me with her long, slender fingers, better known as the "Tickle Bug." Moments like this made me feel sheltered from all harm in the world by her love.

In 1974, my mom bought my first Holly Near album for me. Around the same time, she gave me the Free to be You and Me album, which features Marlo Thomas. As a child, I couldn't listen to these albums enough and as an adult they are now my treasures. These albums were my first introduction to feminism and politics. The veil of influence she created during this time in my life was immense and later would prove to have a life-long impact. Throughout the years, she continued to support my growth as a woman - she believed I could do anything.

My mom has diligently worked to have a real relationship with me. She's expressed a need to feel emotionally connected by honestly expressing her feelings - her hopes, her hurts, her desires. She's always said that she doesn't want time to slip away between us, without us being able to say what we want and what we mean. I am grateful for this. She has helped me to live in the moment and to communicate my thoughts more openly with others.

She is my heroine because in the face of adversity, frustration and hard-ship, she always pushed ahead with an outward confidence that life must, and will, be better. Times weren't always smooth between us, as mother and daughter, but she hung in there and moved gracefully through those tumultuous times as well.

Thank you, Mom, for being my heroine. I'm grateful that I had to look no further than my own backyard to find such a fine role model. I love you!

September 11, 1998