Today is Veteran's Day. While I am always thankful for the service of our troops and veterans, it's hard to celebrate only them today.
Today is also my mother's birthday, so when I woke up today, she was all I could think about. My mother and her sisters were all born on holidays -- Veteran's Day, Christmas Eve, New Year's Day. I think this might be why my mother was so anti-holiday and anti-birthday; each day seemed to be celebrating others before them. As I saw all the posts (well-deserved though they are), it hurt me for her that yet again, others went before her.
I wrote something for my mother for Mother's Day a few years ago. It's one of my favorite pieces because it's the first time I actually realized the shift in our relationship. My dad has always called me Wanda Jr., claiming that there is more of her in me than either of us would ever admit. In the past five years, our roles have reversed drastically, and it is only in this reversal I have begun to see myself within her.
My mother has always been brash and abrupt, never letting politeness impede truth. Politeness and manners have always been my armor against confrontation, but as I've gotten older, I've learned to wield a sharp word for those who deserve it. My mother's nickname isn't Freight Train for nothing.
My mother avoids the spotlight, always letting my dad be the star. She downplays her own talents, camouflaging them as luck or happenstance, and abhors compliments and insincerity. Wanda Jean is the Queen of First Impressions, knowing within moments the intentions of new friends as well as their retention. There is not a relationship or friendship that I've ever had that my mother didn't accurately predict its success or failure. And, looking back, I knew too.
She is loyal and determined and fiercely protective. She is private and guarded with her heart, but once it is won, it's won forever. She is competitive and stubborn and wildly funny. She loves curse words and fried chicken and salt on her margaritas. She sticks when she'd rather run. She is often scared but doesn't show it. She is sometimes sad but doesn't say it. And she is strong but doesn't know it.
She is me, and I am her.
For the past 5 years, we've become veterans of our own private war, she and I. Today is a celebration of those men and women who have fought for our freedom and sacrificed for our rights, but in thinking about my mom, I realize that not every battle is fought on foreign soil and not every warrior puts on a uniform or grabs a gun. Some just get in the car and drive toward the sticking point instead of away from it.
Happy Birthday, Freight Train. Thanks for loving me, for teaching me, for fighting for me.