Spent the weekend in Bama. I’d like to say the heavens opened and the angels sang but it rained. Rain wrecked my hair, which wrecks my day. My pants got all stretched out and a new sweater grew five sizes. My feet got cold. We did visit the statue of The Saban God to ensure the latest National Championship recognition was added so there’s that.
On the bright side, there’s an abundance of chickens, celebrating, and bar-b-que at a place called Archibald’s where macaroni and cheese is a vegetable. I land in Birmingham around nine. About five past nine my accent, which has a life of its own, jumps out at an unsuspecting girl handing me change.
Her: “Thank you ma’am.”
Me: “Thank you, baby.”
People in the South don’t even blink when you call them baby. It’s a favorite moniker regardless of geography. The response, however, is geographically dependent. Southerners never look at me like I’m tossing a fumbled pass.
The reason for the trip and plethora of chickens is Middle Chicken’s Officer Training Graduation. She’s an Air Force JAG. JAG: Judge Advocate General’s Corps, the legal branch of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and Navy. They found her when she was in law school.
When she first tells of their interest, and then hers, I admit to being a reluctant mom. I envision combat boots, camo pants, yelling, wall climbing and shimmying through wet troughs. Possibly with guns. All of this happens. None of this fits my Middle Chicken. Did I mention this is all about me?
She never fancied dirty hands, undone french braids or marching. Her comfort came via toe shoes, dresses, coordinated hair ribbons and Tiffany necklaces. In college, she lived in a beach house but rarely were her feet in the sand. She was more likely found with her nose in a book than waking at 4:30 A.M. for PT. And, full disclosure, she can’t make a bed to save her soul. How could this delicate, girly, mani/pedi loving child of mine be a part of the military?
I was not alone. Friends put hands to their mouths. “Middle Chicken? No.”
When the time came to sign on the dotted line my brilliant, talented girl turned down at least three high-paying, interesting, career launching opportunities in order to be a JAG. I pledged my support. Though I made her watch Private Benjamin and pointed out her love of fine fabrics and good shoes. I tried a few tricks. None worked.
And then, this weekend, I meet the JAGS, the doctors and the clergy that make up Officer Training. What I find is every single one of them gave up opportunity, higher pay, easier work, and family, to serve their country.
My child’s words echo, “When I’m eighty years old, I will regret that I was offered this opportunity and did not take it.” Evidently, it’s not an easy invite.
Listening to commanders outline the work, dedication and difficulty in accomplishing this step, I feel ashamed I tried to talk her out of an experience that will shape not only her but the world in which she lives and serves her fellow man. Isn’t that what we, The Norwegian and myself, set out to teach her all those years ago? That our love and service to one another is paramount?
As mothers do, I beat myself with guilt. I also cry–it is a graduation after all. But if I’m totally honest–I feel relief that now her work will be in the courtroom and not in the mud. There are those fine fabrics to think of. And her nails.