I had to laugh.
“You think I look like your Aunt Jill?” I asked, referring to my sister who is actually a police officer. Lola nodded.
“Yeah! You look like Aunt Jill with all the shiny buttons.”
That’s when it dawned on me.
My second daughter doesn’t know me as a military mom.
Of my three children, Lola’s the only one to be born within the gates of a military installation. Miss C was born in an Italian hospital in a quiet village at the base of the Alps, because the air base did not yet have a hospital. I was no longer active duty when Jaz was born in our local hospital.
But Lola is my Fort Belvoir baby, as I was pregnant with her my final year of active duty Air Force while stationed at the Pentagon, meaning I had to get my prenatal care and deliver at the nearest Army base.
I only remained on active duty for a few months after Lola arrived. After that, I joined the Air Force Reserve and did my time in Ohio once a month, or a few weeks here and there throughout the year, while she stayed home with her Dad in Virginia or with the grandparents in Cincinnati.
Unlike her older sister, Lola’s doesn’t remember when I used to wear the military uniform every day. She’s never had fighter jets roar over her house like clockwork. While she’s said goodbye and hello to me at airports all the time, she’s never had to wait for months at a time for me to return. She’s lived in the same house all her life, so far.
She just doesn’t know me as a military mom.
As I took off my uniform and slipped into another type of uniform she most certainly recognized — yoga pants and an Old Navy top — I explained to her the different parts of my military clothing. My stripes. The name plate. The career badge. My ribbon rack (which I haven’t been wearing), and what some of the ribbons represented.
I reminded her of the wide, flat building we sometimes pass on our way downtown, and how I now go there instead of Ohio to work every now and then for the Air Force. And as we walked downstairs to join the rest of the family, I pointed out the military momentos around our house, and she even offered up her own memories of the Air Force Museum in Ohio.
Since that evening, Lola’s been greeting me at the door and asking me, “How was your work today with the Air Force?” She seems pleased to remember the details. As she gets older, she’ll no doubt learn more and more how the Air Force has shaped our family over the years.
Technically, she and Jaz are not military brats. At least, not the way Miss C was a military brat all those years, and not the way thousands of kids sacrifice every day as their parents serve full-time.
But I think it’s safe to say she’s a proud military kid.