As a young girl growing up in the Seventies, I found many people on television whose lives I coveted. I dreamt of living in a genie bottle with the ability to cross my arms, nod my head and blink, and then, bam, I’d be transported to Paris, or I’d redecorate my bedroom with a frilly pink bedspread and matching pillow shams, or fill my closet with Jordache jeans and Nike sneakers, the white ones with the red stripe. I longed for powers that would allow me to crinkle my nose with a wiggle and create a perfect home with the perfect family. When The Sonny & Cher Show came on, my sisters and I would sprint to our bedrooms and fling clothes out of drawers until we found our turtlenecks. We ran back down the hall to the living room, pulling them on over our heads, panicked we were going to miss the opening song. Bent over at the waist with our heads hanging down, we removed the top until the neck of the shirt was stuck on our head and when we stood up, the sleeves and body fell dramatically behind us. We flipped our head ever so slightly to the right and then the left, while singing and swaying, our “hair” swaying with us. Just like Cher.
I anxiously awaited the end of the hour, when typically, for the last song, they would bring their daughter, Chastity Sun, on stage. I longed for her straight, blonde hair, her flat stomach, and belly button. I envied her two-piece, gold and glittery outfit. I wished for her parents. I yearned for her life. I wanted to be her.
But the hero of them all for me was always Wonder Woman. Watching Lynda Carter live life as Diana Prince, a smart, beautiful, professional woman by day, and then have this alternate universe where she was a badass warrior replete with bracelets that could stop bullets, a rope that lassoed bad guys until they told the truth, and an invisible plane to fly the skies undetected, fascinated me. When the movie came out two years ago, I was enthralled yet again with Diana’s story, even more so this time. I’m not usually one for period war movies, but I was mesmerized during the battles scenes. The strength and power with which she wielded her shield and sword, and most of all her courage to lead the fight for justice, waging war on behalf of all mankind, inspired me.
In my real-life universe, my mother was the woman I watched every day. Most of the time, her petite, five-foot frame makes a soft entrance to the room. She rarely raises her voice or engages in an argument. She raised five kids without fanfare or complaint and has managed to keep us all within reach where she can still keep tabs on us, and our ever-expanding tribe of partners, grandkids and great-granddaughters.
My mother is a legendary prayer. She has been for many years, ever since she found God at a Methodist church camp in the summer of ’75. There is a verse in the bible that says to pray about everything, and she took this verse literally. I’ve witnessed and heard her praying for sunshine and calm seas months before our family beach vacations, or that it wouldn’t thunderstorm during my wedding last July.
She has prayed for job interviews, that my sister’s missing dog wouldn’t fall victim to coyotes, that my niece born at twenty-seven weeks who spent three months in the NICU would not only survive, but also thrive. My mother prayed that my sister would carry her baby to full term, that her own breast cancer would be eradicated and that my brainy nephew would get a good grade on his exam.
I remember when a car going fifty-five miles per hour on a busy rural highway hit our beagle-mix mutt. My parents brought her to our basement, settled her comfortably on a blanket, then anointed her head with oil and prayed that she would live, so they wouldn’t have to look their five children in the eyes and tell them their beloved dog, Mickey, had died. I watched her pray my brother back to life, fully healed after falling out of a three-story window. She promptly ignored the doctor’s report that he wouldn’t finish college or be able to read again. My father likened her to a pit bull with a bone when it comes to praying for people she loves. She prays without ceasing.
My mother told me recently on one of our daily morning calls, that when she prays, she envisions herself dressed for battle, like the bible mentions in Ephesians. In her mind’s eye, she is wearing the full armor of God—helmet, shoes, belt, breastplate, shield, wielding her sword—with her family, the entire lot of us, standing behind her. In this alternate universe, she fearlessly goes before us, ready to fight anyone or anything to protect her mankind, her world. She is a warrior. I’m sure the devil trembles when she wakes up in the morning.
I took for granted the badass superhero she was and is, and spent far too much time looking for one elsewhere or dreaming of some other world when I had everything I needed right in front of me. I can only hope to carry on this tradition of waging battle in the realm where the real shit happens. I want to live in this world, where unexplained favor can get your resume to the top of the pile, where skies stop raining for your two-hour party, where minds suddenly change, bodies heal and miracles happen, where blinders fall off and light breaks through at just the right moment, and the thing you thought would never change, suddenly does, where battles are won, and you never even saw the fight because someone else was waging war on your behalf.
The Hollywood version of Wonder Woman is entertaining, but I rarely have need for an invisible plane, a rope of truth, or wrist cuffs to ward off bullets. But a warrior like my mother, who has my back in this world, I need every single day. She is my hero. I am her fan. She is my Wonder Woman.