Draymond Green’s mom doesn’t celebrate Mother’s Day. She doesn’t want gifts, doesn’t give them.
She didn’t eat burnt pancakes made by ambitious kids, because they knew better than to do that for her. She wasn’t what they call a CME Christian — Christmas, Mother’s Day and Easter — who showed up for the special church program in her pink skirt suit and big hat.
“One time we tried to get her something,” said her son Torrian Harris, who lives in a suburb of Flint, Mich., and works at General Motors. “We were real young. We saved up our money, hit up our penny banks, found quarters. All of that. We went and bought her a gift to show our appreciation. She made us take it back and get our money back. She didn’t want us to spend our money on her – which, at the time, I was fine with.”
Mary Babers-Green doesn’t care too much for the commercialization of motherhood, nor the superficiality holidays bring.
She was raised by a teenage mom in the struggle of poverty, and became a teenage mom in the struggle of poverty. When the ends don’t always meet, and despair lurks around every corner, counting your blessings becomes a daily ritual. Appreciation of good things is best in the moment, not by appointment.
And no doubt, part of her bent was shielding herself and her family from the sadness. For the impoverished, holidays can be a stinging reminder of what you don’t have.
But even though she now has wealth as an NBA mom, thanks to her All-NBA son, she is even less interested. That’s because she is also surrogate mom to many. She is still in Saginaw, Michigan, mothering in the community. And there is nothing fancy or superficial or commercial about it.
“These kids can make me cry until I don’t have any tears left,” Babers-Green said.
In Saginaw, where she still lives, many young people have always called her mom. Officially, she has three kids of her own: LaToya, 31, Torrian, 29, and Draymond, 27.
Unofficially, she has a thousand kids. Her house was a hub for young people.
She was a young mom, so she was relatable to the local youth. She would get on their head in a second, but the judgment many youngsters feel never came from her direction. She wasn’t an authoritarian, but a supervising partner in their development. That’s how she raised her kids.
“Me and my mom, we are literally best friends,” Draymond said. “We still have arguments to this day. It’s so real and genuine. Everyone’s relationship with their mom isn’t real and genuine. So I don’t take that for granted.”
Her parenting style was always attractive to other kids — the empowering freedoms, the blunt talk, the absence of prevention, a healthy respect for fun.
Another thing the whole community to knew: Ms. Babers’ house was open. If you were hungry, or needed a place to escape drama at home, or in a bind and needed some real talk to guide you through, this was the spot.
Harris said it still is. Visits back home always lead to him asking who are all these people here? Invariably, he’ll get a long explanation about someone who needed a place to stay for a while. Nothing has changed in that department.
“When you made a pot of beans, you didn’t make enough for just your kids,” she said. “You made some in case other kids needed something to eat. My momma did the same thing. My dad was that way. If there are hungry kids, you feed them. You put yourself last in the equation.”
Babers-Green’s life changed with Draymond’s $82 million contract extension with the Warriors. She was able to retire from her job as a security guard at Thompson Middle School, as he made sure she needs for nothing. But she didn’t leave her life. Mothering is a permanent job.
She became the cheerleading coach. Eventually, Babers-Green and her friend, Sallivia Browder, formalized their community parenting by creating a mentor program. Jagged Diamonds targets at-risk girls in high school and middle school. They had already been doing the work — providing feminine products, combing hair, championing good behavior, imparting wisdom. Now they are an official non-profit with resources at their disposal.
It started in 2013. They expected it to be small, with Browder’s teenage girls inviting a few friends. Before they knew it, 22 girls were in Browder’s house. They meet every Saturday. It’s supposed to be two hours but it always ends up longer.
They cook for the kids: food and real talk. Either Browder or Babers-Green will bring up a topic. Sometimes, the girls will dictate. Whatever the case, invariably, they will get to talking and their revelations will dictate the discussion.
“What we’ve created is a sisterhood between the girls,” Browder said. “We walk them through whatever issues that go in, whether they are struggling in school or struggling with the relationships that have. We have girls that deal with depression, girls that have been molested. We just address whatever needs to be addressed during that session.”
Jagged Diamonds partners with local organizations to give the girls resources and community service work. Both Browder and Babers-Green are regulars on campus, talking with counselors and resolving issues.
The mother who probably should have her feet up somewhere, enjoy the spoils of her son’s NBA life, is now in the trenches, managing trauma. The trash-talking, tough-as-nails woman who raised an NBA tough guy now regularly finding herself with no recourse but the shedding of tears.
The stories are heart-breaking.
Babers-Green said one teenage girl, she doesn’t want to share the names of minors, confided that she was molested by her mother’s boyfriend. But she was afraid to tell because the man was funding her family’s survival.
If she told, at best, that would be the end of her mom’s relationship. But how would they pay the rent? They could end up homeless. At worst, if she told, her mom wouldn’t believe her. And how could she live with that?
The weight was too much to carry alone, so she dropped a chunk off on Draymond’s mom. Now she has to help the girl.
One girl came to school and it was clear she was beaten. The marks were visible. Babers-Green was obligated to call CPS, and when she did, the girl ran away.
Speaking of running away, she was once awakened by a late knock on the door. Three girls popped up out of nowhere. They’d walked from the other side of town in the cold, with not so much as a coat, to get away from home.
“Those type of situations break you all the way down. Those are not surface wounds. Those things cut. So how do you fix that? I’m a cry baby when other people are hurting and its something I can’t help them with.
“This is what I’m dealing with. That (NBA life is) Dray’s life. This is my life.”
Babers-Green said one 14-year-old has particularly hijacked her heart. Like so many kids, life hasn’t been too smooth for the teenager. She was a stellar student in elementary until the grandmother she lived with died. She was forced to live in an untenable situation. She became hardened.
By the time Babers-Green crossed her path, the girl was tough, mean. She is tall and skinny. She doesn’t take any mess. The 48-year-old immediately saw herself in this teen.
Now they spend a lot of time together. She pours into this girl hoping it all eventually clicks.
“She has broken my heart plenty of times,” Babers-Green said. “She still breaking it right now. Now I’m looking for the day where she says, “Mom, I done. I’m not doing it any more.’ That could be today or tomorrow. Could be 10 years from now. But it’s going to pay off.”
Her care is unconditional. And if you don’t have parents, or yours are messed up, the Babers-Green influence figures to become even more vital. She cries with them but doesn’t let them wallow. She makes them laugh and also tells them what they need to hear. She shares her mistakes and struggles.
“She is real with the girls,” Browder said. “She is very open with them when they come to her with problems. They love her because she is not going sugar coat anything. She is very transparent with the kids about her life and the struggles she went through. Really, she just keeps it real with them.”
That’s why so many call her mom. But it’s a grimy, roll-up-your-sleeves type of motherhood. It’s not glittery cards with poems and Eggs Benedict with mimosas for Sunday brunch. It’s more homemade spaghetti with tearful hugs, trips to CVS to get some basic necessities before a Saturday night movie.
Babers-Green will be on hand for the Warriors-Spurs series, but not for Game 1. She decided to lay low on Mother’s Day — and her NBA son sees right through it.
“She knows if she’s here, I’m probably gonna do something (for her),” Draymond said.
And he is too grown up for her to insist he return to the store to get his money back.
Contact Marcus Thompson II at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ThompsonScribe.