Monday, November 17, 2008

The Wind Beneath my Wings

I know, cheesy title. So sue me.

On Wednesday my kids had a special celebration, called "Hotcakes with Heroes". Basically, it was a pancake breakfast for students and their dads. I don't know how many dads each student had - dads, stepdads, foster dads, grandpas, whatever. But, the title of the day gave me pause to think about who my heroes have been throughout my life.

When I was a little girl, my hero was my godmother. She was the epitome of beauty. She had a gentle quietness that was so distinguished in my eyes. She always spoke kind words and she never raised her voice. Her make-up and hair were never over-done, but she always looked neat and put-together. She was like Miss America to me. Where my mother was the one who I loved and depended on, my mother was also the one who ripped off my bandaids, scrubbed out the toilets, and pulled a whole chicken limb from limb for our dinner. When I grew up, I wanted to be just like my godmother.

When I was a teenager, my hero was my English and French teacher. I never admitted to anyone that I liked her because she was pretty much the least favorite teacher for every one of my friends. I had her freshman year for English AND French, Sophomore year for French, and Junior year for English. When I got her Junior year, many of my friends groaned and said, "Man, I can't believe you have her again! That sucks." Secretly, I didn't mind. I liked her because, although she wasn't warm and fuzzy, she saw through my act and saw the real me. She ignored my attempts to be popular and instead focused on my attempts to be a writer. And when I had a period of rebellion Freshman year, she didn't take me aside and pat me on the back or pump her fist in the air with a "YOU CAN DO IT" cheer. Instead, she held me to the same expectations she always had - knowing I was capable of the work and not accepting anything less. She truly earned my respect over many years of a developing relationship. In later years of English class, I opened up to her in our class journals about so many personal struggles - boys, friends, conflicts at home, teenager behavior, etc. I trusted her as I opened up with many personal feelings. And, in turn, she trusted me as she shared her private & personal feelings with me. I thought that took a lot of courage for someone to open themselves up like that, especially to a teenager. She helped me learn how to work for what I want, not make excuses, and especially to get to know people because they might surprise you. She is one of the main reasons I became a teacher.

As I grew older, into college and young adulthood, my heroes were my friends. I had so many wonderful friends that represented different facets of what I aspired to be. I had one friend who was very beautiful, so I asked her for make-up and hair styling tips. On the other hand, I also had one friend who was really natural and also a true beauty, so I watched her beauty regime to keep me in balance with my personal grooming. I had one friend who was very smart so we would hang out and do homework together and I always asked her about studying for tests, test-prep strategies, best places on campus to study, etc. I had another friend who shared my major, so we'd work on projects together, talk about our future jobs, go to lectures together, and compare notes on classes we'd both taken. She was a great ruler for me to measure myself against. I had another friend who was ALWAYS up for a party. If I ever wanted to go out to the bars or to a frat house, she was ready to go. She knew a ton of people and seemed to be so comfortable blending right in to the crowd wherever we went. Being with her really gave my confidence a boost and we always had a ton of fun.

Now that I am a wife and mother, my hero, FINALLY, is truly my mom. Everything I say about her will sound like she's just a typical mom, probably no different from thousands out there. My mom stayed home with us my whole life. She had hobbies, like bowling and golfing, sewing and singing in the choir. She took us to church every Sunday. She never ordered us pizzas from a delivery place or gave us TV dinners; every evening meal was served at our family table, with everyone sitting together, usually something she had made from scratch. When I was growing up, my dad worked very long hours and did some very stressful things at work. Consequently, he took a lot of that out on my mom emotionally and they fought a lot. Later, I would see that time as just normal marriage tension. No violence, no divorce. Just two people, frustrated, but committed to staying married. My mom was rarely my playmate, but she always found things for me to do to keep busy. I guess, by not constantly entertaining me she helped me build a creative imagination. And now, as I look at my mom through the eyes of myself as a mother, I see all that she did for me without losing herself. I see a woman who enjoyed being a mother but did not sacrifice being a wife, a friend, or herself in order to do that. She is my example. She is my aspiration. She is my sounding board, my friend, and at times the only person I will accept constructive criticism from. She's my hero. I just regret that it took me 36 years to realize it.

Now, do you have a hero? Maybe you have already written a post about it, or maybe you'll write one now. Use Mr. Linky for the direct URL to your blog post about your hero.


Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

I have many heroes. None of which are well known. None of which are glamorous. none of which would have been my heroes before I became mature enough to understand what true sacrifice and true heroism is.


Kellan said...

I enjoyed hearing about the heros of your life - they all sound like wonderful people!

Have a great week - Kellan

Anna See said...

This is a wonderful post. I loved the part about your teacher. I remember teachers like this and I hope I was like this for some of my students.