By definition a hero is somebody who is admired and looked up to for outstanding qualities or achievements, somebody who commits acts of remarkable bravery or who has shown great courage, strength of character or another admirable quality. I find all these traits in my hero. "Try to picture a person who stands apart from the crowd who sees things not in black or white, but in varying shades of gray. Try to picture a person who closes their eyes and hears the beat of a different drummer, then marches proudly and eagerly away to do their own thing regardless of the consequences or popular opinion. Try to picture a person who is not a polished gem, but a diamond in the rough...someone who believes true beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and that the best things in life are free." (an excerpt from blogsite, Abnormally Normal People written by Mildred Ratched) When I picture this person, I see my mother and she is my hero.
Ever since I was little, I always knew my mother was different. It was not until I grew up that I later could appreciate the “difference” in her versus the stereotypical normal mother everyone else seemed to have. My mother raised us to be leaders not followers, to chart our own destiny and to be no one’s fool. This was daunting to a young child whose only desire was to fit in and have what everyone else had, a normal mom. My mother always taught my two brothers and me that the mind was a wonderful thing and we should use it. As far back as I can remember, probably to when I was three, I was told, “you are a smart person, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” Now I realize that all mothers will tell their children that, but most would not have done what she did. She let us use those brains instead of thinking for us. She told us that God gave us a brain and to use it, if we made a mistake or got into trouble we were to use our brain and figure out a solution. We had to, she was not going to suffer our foolishness and molly coddle any of us. Does this make her different? At the time I certainly thought so. When all my friends bragged about their parents giving them the answers to homework problems, kids picking on us at school or about how so and so parents was screaming at someone about their child’s actions my mother sat back and said to us, “You figure it out.” How I hated that, I wanted normal so bad and I didn’t have it, but it taught us to use those brains and boy did we figure it out.
Normalcy was not ever in abundance with my mother. Living in an area where racial slurs were the norm, my mother taught us to respect everyone equally as a human being regardless of skin color. She taught us to look beneath the surface of a person’s outer skin and find the true essence of who that person really was. I never knew what racial discrimination was until I became an adult and heard it. It was shocking to realize that the person making those remarks was so narrow minded. I guess witnessing such narrow mindedness opened my eyes to the fact that once again my mother defied what was normal and instead of seeing things in the standard black and white, she saw those gray areas. I never realized as I was growing up that she taught us from those gray matters more than from the black and white. As a young child I was allowed to watch what I wanted to on television. Most parents shudder to think what a child would choose, not my mother; she just sat back and allowed us to make those choices on our own. Instead of choosing stupidly we chose wisely and by doing so were taught a valuable lesson, the reward system. If you show that I can trust you, I will extend your freedom, but if you mess up you lose that freedom. I can honestly say our freedom wasn’t yanked away very often.
My mother will never be a polished gem; she will always be a diamond in the rough. Like an uncut diamond she has many flaws that I once saw as imperfections and now badges of courage, lack of selfishness and a kindness that is so overwhelmingly generous. I was taught it is better to give than to receive and always thought, "you’ve got to be kidding, right? You can’t really believe that bull!" But time and time again, we learned through her actions she meant just that. Her kindness and generosity to family as well as strangers will linger forever in my mind. What I saw as a weakness in character, thinking she was being taken advantage of, was an error on my part. You can only be taken advantage of if you let someone do so and she never allowed that. She showed strength in choosing to help those in need instead of doing the easier thing and ignoring them. She did without when others needed because she felt they needed more than she did. She didn’t just talk to us about these things, we saw her doing them time and time again. My mother taught us about the beauty found in the art of giving, the courage to love when you wanted to hate, to be strong when you wanted to be weak and to have the strength to go on when you feel that you are failing.
My mother has not lived an easy life. The choices she has made are choices she has to bear, but bear them she does. Sometimes in frustration, in wishing she had done different, sometimes with laughter as she recalls a happy moment, but however she does it, she always bears them with honesty. She explains, not lectures, about her mistakes she has made along the way, in hopes that we will not have to go through the same things. I don’t look at them as mistakes though, because without the things she has witnessed and gone through herself, she would not be the person she is today and that person is my hero.
Wimpy Daughter and Mildred Ratched (1996)