Saturday, May 27, 2006

Relative wars

There is no war bloodier or more devastating. Not Iraq. Not he war on drugs. Not even the war to end all wars or the war on terrorism.

Ever since I can remember, my mother has been warring with her brother's wife. The battles are brief and passionate in a quiet way. The battlefield is seldom littered with bodies, only egos. The goal is one upmanship. Tonight back in a little town in SW Ohio, my mother won a decisive victory. This is the winning entry.

Over the years, my aunt has had lots of ammunition with her five kids (4 girls, 1 boy) from band contests and first chair musicians to big fancy weddings with hired bands, bartenders and halls at Masonic and Shrine temples. All of my aunts children have been ascendant at one time or another.

On our side, there have been weddings in yards under marquee tents and small home churches and the occasional promotion at work, the small victories of my two sisters and brother.

And then there is me.

I have been trotted out for all kinds of awards, local, regional and national, from elementary through high school for writing and acting and singing and good grades. Newspaper clippings of me with presidents and governors and presidential hopefuls have been carefully preserved and brought out to counter new volleys from the enemy camp. I was on television before the birth of VCRs and DVD players able to record the moment for posterity and be shown over and over again like the home movies my parents bring out from time to time to embarrass their children and bore friends, relatives and acquaintances. Nationally syndicated articles and profiles and articles in newspapers and magazines have only renewed amiable hostilities. Then there is tonight's overwhelming victory.

Mom wanted extra copies of one of the anthologies in which my writing appears, suitably autographed and dedicated to said aunt and uncle. I know how Mom hovered expectantly while my aunt read the story on page 161. "This is really wonderful. Jackie wrote this?"


"She's been published?"

"Yes," my mother says, drawing first blood.

"She gets paid for her writing?"

"Yes." Gloating is obvious at this point as Mom drives the point home. "And that is only one of her books."


All my aunt can do is accept her defeat graciously. "Thank Jackie for the book."

All the trips to Europe, vacation homes scattered over Ohio and the condo in Florida, the fancy weddings with their expensive price tags and bragging rights, the designer inspired gowns and free flowing wine, the promotions at work and wine tastings, even their stock portfolio earnings and all the bragging rights and one upmanship over the years are little more than hollow victories with the life span of a May fly. Mom has tangible and lasting evidence that she has won the decisive and final victory because all the other accomplishments are but memories. My books will last and are available in bookstores around the country. One of the books won a major award and that, too, will last.

Mom fairly crowed on the phone when she called after my aunt and uncle left. I hear it in her voice. My unorthodox lifestyle, my wanderings, the way I fly in the face of convention and her displeasure are all forgiven because of her victory today. How do I feel about it?

I don't write for anyone's bragging rights. I write because it's who I am and have always been. I'm proud of what I have accomplished but I am as proud of finishing the PPRAA newsletter ahead of schedule as I am of those books and the ones about to be published in the next two years. I would be just as proud as if I had no family and sprang forth a fully grown writer from beneath a rock in the desert. It's not about victories or bragging rights, it's about telling a story that touches one other person's emotions. But even had I touched no one I consider myself a success because I am doing what I want to do, what excites me and makes me happy -- I write.

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