2001 was a whirlwind year for my family.
After 9/11, many families didn’t travel – but my family had very little choice. My aunt, who had moved to Munich years prior and met the man of her dreams, was getting married in October. On top of that, my grandmother was dying in Florida. I had infant twin brothers who needed to be taken care of, so my paternal grandparents were expected to fly in from Georgia while my mom and I went to Germany, then my father and I waited at home while my mother almost immediately left for Florida. Her mother was then laid to rest in Canada, which meant more travel.
That’s a lot to deal with in the best of circumstances, and the nation was in a state of emergency.
Today is International Women’s Day, but it’s also my mom’s birthday – so I wanted to talk about her for a minute. After all, isn’t the point of today to celebrate the strongest women in our lives?
When I was younger, I felt an aversion to calling my mom my hero. I didn’t name her in my college acceptance essays, or when I had to write paragraphs for state-sanctioned standardized tests. I won poetry contests twice in high school, and neither time did I call her my hero.
I looked for the glamorous answer, instead. One of my best friends, who played high school varsity baseball with a missing finger from a farming accident as a child – that was an answer for a hero that people would take seriously. My aunt, who started her own business halfway around the world and ran a company instead of a household – that was what would grab people’s attention. People always named their parents, and I wanted an answer with lustre – it took a lot of maturing to get over that.
My mom, though, deserved so much more than that.
We all call our parents the smartest people we know, but my mom may truly be the smartest person I know.
She did her dual undergrad at Agnes Scott and Georgia Tech on academic scholarship, then did her post-grad at Johns Hopkins (at least, until I was born). Growing up, I remember stories about how Tulane recruited her to go there, and how she’d worked with a professor who was internationally renowned for his genetic research. She was the fastest typer I knew until I started working in media, and it was hard to surprise her with facts from school – she literally knew everything already.
Know the stories most kids tell about tricking their parents by sneaking out, lying about their cell phones, and duping the older generation with parental safety locks on their computers? Yeah, forget that – my mom was the one who could dupe me, not the other way around. She’s better with iPhones than I am, she’s an Excel whiz, and she plays the piano, clarinet, oboe, and saxophone. She’s the Dos Equis man, but in mom form.
It’s coincidence that her birthday falls on International Women’s Day, but I’m glad it does. It gives me a shameless excuse to brag about her, even if she hates the spotlight and has never been fond of public speaking. I was the kid who always jumped in front of the camera to make sure you knew I was there, but she’s the person who you actually want to see – trust me on this.
If you’re a man wondering why International Women’s Day needs to be a thing, it’s for people like my mom. Three kids, two college degrees, plenty of academic awards, a few neighborhood tennis championships, volunteer honors for all the work she does in the Houston community now, and always a quick, witty comment to remind you that she’s not just juggling the world, she’s doing it with ease.
If you haven’t yet, guys, give your mom a nod today. That’s what a day like this is all about.