A Couple of Tributes to Military MomsPosted: January 18, 2012
From the Operation Footlocker Archives—
“In the summer of 2001 my mother, who is in her 80’s, was extremely ill and not expected to live. In my distress ove the prospect of possibly losing the woman who has been the rock in my life and my guiding spirit, I called my dearest Brat friend, who had lost her own mother a couple of years before and who is extremely close to my mother. Terry wrote the following and posted it to alt.culture.military-brats. Subsequently another friend added the second [tribute]. If you would like to add to this as well, we encourage you to do so.
Operation Footlocker is a mobile military brats museum. We felt it wasn’t complete without this addition, since without these women to guide us, none of us would have had the experiences we had.
My mother died nearly two years ago and I think I’m going to suffer as much with my friend’s mother’s passing as I did with my own. And not just for my love and affection for my Brat pal—but because the last of this generation of mothers is going, and we’ll never be able to call them back. We never really “heard” their stories and we never really respected their sacrifices.
These women were WWII brides—they had no idea, most of them, what they were getting into, but they smiled gamely for the camera in their catch-as-catch can wedding ceremonies and kissed their husbands goodbye. And when the men came back, the brides gathered these strangers back into their arms and Soldiered On.
They were introduced to the Officer’s Wives Manual. (I’m making apologies here, because I don’t know what the equivalent EM manual was, but I’m betting there was one, and it wasn’t any different than the OWs) and were told they couldn’t hold a job, b/c their husband’s career was their job. They had to learn Etiquette with a capital “E” and Rank with a capital “R”. She never, ever, sat Mrs. General next to Mrs. Lt., for instance, and she poured tea from a silver service with short gloves before 6 P.M. and long gloves after. And she volunteered at the base hospital; and she gave birth when her husband was on maneuvers in Greenland, and she held it together when her daughter had pneumonia and he was TDY in Spain and she Soldiered On.
And she moved every two or three years and she cradled the broken china from her grandmother and tried to piece it back together. She tried to find a place for the damned camel saddle her husband brought back from North Africa and the Grundig from Germany. And she had no identity that wasn’t encased in the plastic Dependent’s ID Card—who she was was who he was. And she Soldiered On.
And she took the abuse her children heaped upon her, telling her how destructive a military brat’s life can be—how a brat’s life is fraught with pain, separation, dislocation and isolation. She looked into her children’s eyes and said, “yes, I know” and we did not hear what she said.”
My mom was a WWII vintage, hauling kids from one end of the earth to the other, birthing children overseas, in dusty, remote duty stations, jungles and frozen tundra. Enduring seasickness, inoculations for God-knows-how-many exotic diseases, keeping our shot records, school records, silk kimonos, pets, bicycles, treasured toys (despite household goods weight restrictions—some of her stuff had to be left behind; it wasn’t nearly as important as her kids’ stuff). Taking us, unescorted, into the foreign countryside, determined we absorb the foreign culture as fully as we could; enforcing “the rules” in Dad’s frequent absences, with almost as firm a hand as his, but seasoned with just a pinch of understanding what we were going through. Ordering from the Sears, Roebuck catalog and sweating the exquisite timing for a special outfit for an important occasion, such as graduation from the 6th grade, being chosen May Queen, or playing the part of the Princess in the school play, and when the parcel didn’t arrive in time, sacrificing one of her very own “ball gowns”.
A West Texas farm girl training a houseboy and house girl in the Orient one year in pidgin English, no less; doing her own housecleaning and laundry the next, and handling both with amazing aplomb. The next year, she began all over again, training in garbled German-Austrian dialect with voluminous hand gestures, a giant woman refugee from Yugoslavia as maid, cook, and babysitter, in quarters appropriated from Nazi sympathizers, while keeping in mind that the packed suitcases under the bed and Russians across the Danube meant evacuation could be implemented at any time. Keeping her own grief in check while her kids cry over leaving yet another batch of friends, knowing she might never see her own circle of friends.
Packing, unpacking, making a home with “make do, and do without.” Keeping in touch with family back in the Zone of the Interior by letter, written at times by dim lantern light when the Russians in their Zone of Occupation decided to deprive us of electricity at any given time.
Myriads more sacrifices made on our behalf. Ordinary women in extraordinary circumstances.
God bless “Mrs. Military Wife” and her family, and all military wives, from a grateful Military Daughter.
Well done, ladies.