Last week, Mr. Understanding and I were privileged and honored to be the only civilians attending the promotion ceremony for our neighbor Mr. Nato. An Army engineer, Mr. Nato’s promotion from Major to Lt. Colonel, was held at the NATO base here in Madrid. Along with Mr. Nato, Mr. Tank was also promoted to the same rank. Both men, from the glorious state of Washington, each married a woman from New Jersey. Both men served in Afghanistan; Mr. Tank also served in Iraq. They are very educated men, each holding at least one advanced degree.
Privileged and honored indeed. Can you say the words “exemplary citizens”? Let’s just say that Mr. Understanding and I have never felt so safe, surrounded on a military base by NATO’s finest soldiers from around the world. (The French, it must be said, have stellar uniforms – divine black boots and fancy tall pill box hats in a muted periwinkle blue; frankly, I didn’t think the French had a military anymore so was relieved to see it on full display). But what impressed us the most was the ceremony itself. Speeches were made and artfully delivered. Wives, parents, and children were specifically honored for their support and, at times, excruciating sacrifice (Army wives are t-o-u-g-h). Fathers and fathers-in-law pinned on new rank pins on the gentlemens’ epaulettes, exchanging gold oak leafs for silver*, in such a touching way that it would bring tears to the eyes of even the most hardened pacifist.
This whole ceremony made me think how sadly lacking this custom of promotions is in both the business world and on the domestic front. We might celebrate a new job with a bottle of champagne but really, that’s it. Spouses, parents, and children are not celebrated along with the honoree. The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how wacked this situation is. Something needs to be done.
It is about this time of year, when I am seriously yearning for America, that my need for recognition and affirmation kicks in. We, the Understandings, have, more or less, successfully navigated another move abroad, the house is taking shape, we are adjusting. But immature, crass, and appalling as it is, the plain truth is I need a prize. Upheaval is never a picnic.
Fortunately, the calendar creates such an opportunity when I need it the most: Mother’s Day. This Mother’s Day I am not only putting in for a promotion, complete with ceremony and party – I want a gold star (hello, General!) and the Medal of Valor.* Other members of my family, likewise, deserve medals: Thing 1 merits the Purple Heart for moving in the middle of high school, Mr. Understanding should receive both the Overseas Service Ribbon and Combat Action Badge, Thing 2 the Ranger Tab, and Thing 3 the Parachutist Badge for landing on her feet.
So, this Mother’s Day, I encourage you all to pin medals on your mothers, big, fat, fancy ones for recognition of service. Maybe you will give her a promotion too, the terms of which you’ll have to work out for yourself. In the meantime, CONGRATULATIONS TO LIEUTENANT COLONELS NATO AND TANK AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR FINE SERVICE TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Q: If you could be given a medal, which one would it be? A promotion?
*not even Mrs. Nato knows why majors get gold and the higher ranking light birds get silver. If you know, write in.
**all of which can be purchased at www.tiffany.com.