My Philadelphia Story: Wilma McNabb

Mother, football fan, soup promoter; 49; Chicago, Illinois

What’s it take to be a good mom? Well, there’s not a book on that. You just try to do the best you can.

When Donovan got drafted, it was really our very first time to come to Philadelphia. And when the people at the draft initially gave us that, um, welcome — that welcome of boos — I thought, oh where am I going?

Yes, you have redeemed yourselves.

Once you decide to have children, your life kind of gets put on hold and you sacrifice for them, to make them be all that they can be and all they want to be.

If they’re being all they can be, sometimes you’ve already been what you were gonna be.

Once Donovan went into the NFL, he told me I could leave my job as a nurse. And I said, well, what would I do? I went to school for this. He said, Ma, you’ll be all right. So I run his foundation, the Donovan McNabb Foundation.

Did I like being a nurse? Yes. I think I’m a nurturing kind of person.

The first challenge that Donovan and all of us ever had was in Chicago, and we bought a house, and we bought it in a predominantly white area. Well, they damaged our house. They spray-painted our house. They broke in. They put holes in the walls. And they did all of that. So we had gone through a racial problem and challenge in our life, and Donovan remembers that.

We stayed in that house because we felt we had worked hard enough that we could move wherever we wanted to move. So when Rush Limbaugh came along and said what he said about Donovan, it was just a little something we stumbled over that we had already been through.

We always told both our sons, you don’t have to just roll over. But sometimes you can be smarter than they are.

I like karaoke. We got a karaoke machine for Christmas. We have a little bit of everything, but we like Motown the best. And Mr. McNabb sings Frank Sinatra — “My Way.”

Marriage — that’s probably harder than raising a good child. You just become friends, and you have the same goal—and that goal is to do what’s best for your children.

Mr. McNabb was a sports person anyway, and I guess I became one. And that was helpful for him, huh? He got the better end of the deal. He’s lucky he got me.

The first year Donovan did the Campbell’s commercial, they had an actress play his mother. And I thought, well, I can do that. And Donovan said, Ma, don’t even try it. I’m like, I want to ask — why don’t you use the real moms?

I got the call the next year from Donovan’s marketing agent. He said, “Are you sitting down? Campbell’s is going to use the real moms.”

I had no acting background. But as Louise Strahan, who did the commercial with her son Michael, said, “We all have been acting all our lives.”

When T.O. got hurt last year, I was so concerned. You know, if your mom’s not here, I’ll be your mom. So I did all of those things. I made sure I stopped in and went to the store and got some things and took them to him.

Me — I can only speak for me — I was shocked when I heard what T.O. said about Donovan. I guess I shouldn’t have taken it personally. But when you talk about my child, that’s my heart.

It takes me back to nursing: Sometimes when you’re sick within yourself, or have some issues within yourself, you lash out at the one that really helps you or needs you or loves you the most.

I always try to make good of something, just to try and ease my mind and my heart. But that hurt my heart. It really did.

I just hope that I instilled—and I think I did, because now Donovan has a child — that love and togetherness, that your family comes first. I think I did instill that in him.

It’s better being a grandma, because you can do anything you want.