66: A Road Well Traveled

66: A Road Well Traveled

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

A Road Well Traveled

If I have done anything in life worth attention, I feel sure that I inherited the disposition from my mother.

~Booker T. Washington

My parents got married right out of high school and started a family right away. My dad went to work in the oil fields, and soon accepted a job working overseas.

The money was great, but we only saw him every other month. My mom stayed home with her five children, essentially raising us alone. We had a place in the country with horses, dogs, chickens and a few head of cattle. Mom spent her time raising kids, sewing our clothes, cooking, cleaning and canning. She was very busy, but always made time for us. Of course, lots of mothers did things like that. But, Mom’s greatest feat was yet to come.

When the oil business declined in the 1980s, my dad and most of his friends lost their jobs. Not long after that, other things began to go awry as well. The financial strain proved too much, and most of their friends ended up divorcing. The wives were at a loss as to how to manage without their large monthly paychecks.

But my mom was different. She helped out by working odd jobs and she learned to drive a semi-truck, so she could help my dad make more miles at his new job. But with three teenagers at home, she couldn’t spend time on the road with him, so she decided to find a different kind of job.

Mom found an ad for the International Air Academy in Vancouver, Washington. She had always dreamed of working as a flight attendant, but had chosen a family over a career. She was intrigued with the idea that she might be able to work in the travel field after all. Having no idea how she would pay for the schooling, or even if she’d get a job, she took a leap of faith and dialed the number.

It wasn’t easy, but she passed the entrance exam and was admitted to the three-month expedited training course. That was only half the battle, though, as she still needed the tuition. She finally got a loan to cover some of the expenses, and the president of the school gave her a personal loan to cover the rest.

As she perused her welcome packet, she realized there was a strict dress code, requiring professional dress each day. This was not something she had in her current wardrobe. And she also needed to see an eye doctor. Her older brother sent her enough money to purchase the clothes she needed and see an optometrist. And then she took her two youngest daughters — my sister and me — to Vancouver, where there was an apartment waiting for her in the family housing section.

The first day of class she was so nervous, I can remember her taking deep breaths and trying to calm herself before leaving. She was forty-five years old, and that made it a little intimidating to walk into a classroom full of twenty-year-olds and try to hold her own. But, she stood by her commitment and graduated at the top of her class.

Her first job as a travel agent was with a large agency in Aurora, Colorado. She felt great about her accomplishment and proud of the beautiful, high-rise building she worked in. I was so proud of what she had done. She’d found a way to rise above the curveball life had thrown at her, and instead of quitting as many of her friends had, she charged ahead and created a brand new career.

But, this story doesn’t end there. Her company needed more people, and they were willing to train them on the job. So, two of my sisters went to work there as well. It would be three more years before I was old enough to join the ranks, but you better believe I took my turn as well. All in all, four of her five children became travel agents, and we often worked for the same company.

This experience taught us a great deal about survival. We learned that it was never too late to start something new, to accomplish your dreams, and to rise above your current circumstances. Times haven’t always been easy and we’ve moved quite a bit to follow jobs, but we’ve done whatever it takes.

I’ve had hard times in my own life, but because of the example set by this amazing woman, I went to college at the age of twenty-nine. It was late, but I had a great teacher, a wonderful role model, and a fantastic support system to help me on my way. If my mom hadn’t set this example for me, I don’t know where I’d be today. She is my inspiration for perseverance at any age.

~Stacie D. Williams

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