My Mother, My American Hero
As our 9th grade school year was coming to a close, Mrs. Anderson, our Reidsville High School history teacher, gave us an essay assignment describing our American heroes. The best essays would be entered in the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) “My American Hero” contest.
It was nearing Memorial Day and while images of decorated WWII veteran grandfathers rushed into my contemporaries minds (as was appropriate), my American hero muse was not a Purple-Hearted veteran in the formal sense. Straddling the old wooden school desk (darn those right-handed desks) in Mrs. Anderson’s classroom, I wrote feverishly on my version of the American hero: my mother.
I crafted the piece with great heart and gave it to Mrs. Anderson. Weeks passed, and I was more concerned about summer and boys than whether my essay had won anything. Nearly the last day of school, Mrs. Anderson told me that I had won the contest and that my piece would be featured in our small-town newspaper. Better still, my mother and I would be attending the local VFW banquet, which, consequently, thrilled my decorated WWII veteran Grandfather Lewman.
Here’s what I wrote about my mother, Judy Trent, who is still my American hero.
A few notes (warnings, if you will) of my 14-year-old unedited writing:
- I stood too close to my thesaurus.
- Clichés were my best friends—as were adjectives, the passive voice, and unnecessary words.
- My mother loved my writing (and me) anyway.
“My American Hero”
A woman stands in a barren, empty place. The wind blows and sends her silver hair into a wild frenzy of dancing curls. At first glance, her features appear soft and youthful. But at a deeper look, one can see a strong woman whose gentle silhouette has been roughened by loss and disappointment. But still she stands against the gales of evil air.
She is my mother, a true American hero. A hero who has endured all—and conquered all—with a strong faith from sunrise to sunset. Her losses great, a husband, a father—the list is never-ending. Challenged to a supreme by systems and society, she yet another moat to cross: she must now raise a daughter all on her own.
Webster defines a single parent as “one protector.” The irony in this denotation is colossal. It is much too simple a meaning to describe the great task of single-parenting that my mother has. Day in and day out, she does her job well, better than most. She is constantly teaching me about life’s trials and to remember that “the world owes you nothing.”
She is not only a teacher, but also a helper. My mother guides me over each hump in a life full of hills with her grand supply of patience and never-ending storage of understanding. She encourages me and wants me to be the best I can be.
My mother is always there. Even when I fail, her open arms give me giant bear hugs and her gentle hand pats my head and a loving smile crosses her lips. Her eyes squint and twinkle, and I can tell that even though I failed, she is proud. Her gestures make my heart sing once more, so again I try.
The same woman stands in an empty place, only now she has a young girl beside her. Now the woman has a person to guide and teach. She will teach the young girl that she, too, will also be roughened by the wind. The woman will help the girl and do the work of 10 people all on her own, alone. This woman will always be my American hero.