I was a bad kid after high school. My senior year I met Doug, who, I thought, was the center of the universe. I started missing curfew, breaking promises, skipping classes and embarking on a lifestyle both deviant and exciting. You see, I was always resentful of my childhood. Raised as the middle child by an over-worked, under-paid, stressed out single mother, I felt like I never got to “have fun”. My siblings and I spent most of our pre-teen years in daycare while my mother worked 12-hour days.
After I met Doug, I got pretty out of control. A series of recent disappointments in my life led me to develop a toxic “I don’t care” attitude. Finally, my mom had had enough. I left home. My mom said she didn’t want to see me until I shaped up. I didn’t care. I had Doug and we had a fun life together. Slowly, I started to realize what I gave up. My mom would call me and say “I don’t want you to come home as long as you are with him.” I was upset that she would even put me in a position like that and it pushed us further apart. About a year later, Doug got hauled off to jail. I knew my mom wouldn’t want me back if my homecoming wasn’t sincere. I had to find a way to prove myself. I remember walking into the Armed Forces recruiter and saying “sign me up, I’m ready to go ASAP”. I signed my name by the dotted line and in 3 months I would ship out. I called my mom and told her I signed up for the military. She agreed to let me come home until I left.
For the next three months, I stayed with mom. I was just waiting to leave, so I had nothing to do all day. I would be home alone until mom came home from work around 5:00 PM. This started to become my favorite time of the day. We would sit together every night and watch court-TV until she went to bed. It was during those times that we had many conversations about life and we discovered how similar we were. We realized that we both had the same views on politics, spirituality, love and almost every other major idea. We realized that, inside, we were like the same person. We even had the same exact birthmark in the same exact spot. I started to realize that what I was missing all that time wasn’t just a mom, but a best friend. Needless to say, by the time I shipped out, it was the hardest thing I ever did. I felt like I had to give up my favorite person in the world.
Now, nearly 3 years later, my mom says she is more proud of me than she has ever been of anyone in her entire life. She never complains that I am away. She said one time that she feels like she “lost me to the world too soon,” and I know it eats her up that I am away, but she never tells me so because she doesn’t want me to feel bad. She asks me when I am coming home and now, all I can tell her is “when I’m done making you proud.”
- Sara Sanderson