As Annie Dillard grew up, her mother was a big part of her life. In "An American Childhood," she shares multiple stories about her mother's eccentric behavior and how it impacted her life in a large way. She also talks about the way her mother thought and behaved to teach others a lesson about how to look at things and life and to think for themselves. Annie Dillard and her mother both want to pass on the way of thinking that they had for themselves and to encourage people to find potential in others. Dillard's mother had a very strong potential to be successful in her life but just didn't have the resources to make it happen. Dillard wants to make it a point to her audience that people should not give up on something they feel passionate about just because they don't possess the opportunities. She believes each individual should look to find the potential in others to provide them with the opportunities to strive in something they strongly believe in.
Dillard's mother expressed a lot of her feelings through silly actions. She started with a catch phrase. "Terwilliger bunts one" (Dillard 242) while listening to a baseball game. She liked that sentence because of the language. She loved the English language and was very drawn to certain words and sayings. As Dillard grew up around this, she also grew quite fond of the English language and just words in general. Dillard's mother expressed a lot of interest in the English language. When they went on a family vacation to Florida, they had to take the road from Tampa to Miami. Dillard says "Anyone could drive over this road without a thought" (Dillard 242), but in her mother's case, the road was more than just pavement. Her mother appreciated the hard work gone into it and the idea behind the name. The roads name was the "Tamiami Trail" or sometimes referred to as the "Alligator Alley". Her mother loved the name "Tamiami Trail" because of its cleverness (combining Tampa and Miami into one word) and how it sounded when spoken.