I sat in the living room, watching television, waiting for my mother to get home from work. It had been almost nine months since I’d seen her last and upon hearing she was upset to have to work the night I would be arrive in town, I promised to wait up for her so we could spend some time together before we went to bed.
Since last she saw me I had begun to take my role as a concealed carrier more seriously. Whereas I only carried when convenient before, I was now carrying constantly and felt rather naked when forced to be without my firearm. Before I had not talked much about my carry habits, but recently I had begun to discuss the issue with both my father and my mother.
While I could not carry while visiting my family as a result of carry laws in their state of residency in Wisconsin, I still took my gun with me to do some target practice and finally prove to my father that I really did carry a .45 on my small frame.
My father and I had already had a great time of showing off our weapons. I had opened my Kimber case and the first thing he had said was, “It looks like a cannon.” I went and got my holster, put it on and showed it just how easy it really was to conceal “the cannon.”
He had never played with snap caps before, nor was he very familiar with the 1911 model, but he enjoyed learning how to take it down, and turning off the lights and getting a good look at my new tritium night sights.
Not to be outdone, he went and got his Browning Hi-Power and we spent a few moments talking about guns and the governor who continues to veto the law that would give my father and other family in that state the right to carry a weapon in their own defense.
Before Dad went to bed I took my gun, secure in its leather holster, setting it on the kitchen table to take up to my bedroom after I said hello to my mother.
When my mother got home from work around one-thirty in the morning, she welcomed me warmly, kissing me on the cheek and giving me a big hug. She asked me how my flight was, and apologized for not doing more to get off of work so she could spend more time with me.
She welcomed me into the kitchen to talk and as she turned on the lights her eyes fell on the holstered gun sitting on her kitchen table.
“Is that yours?” she asked, knowing it had to be.
“Yes, it’s my carry gun,” I said.
She stood still for a moment, just looking at it.
“Can I see it?” she asked.
I unholstered it, cleared it and handed it to her as she sank into a kitchen chair looking at the weapon in her hand as one might look at something that they are not quite sure they are ready to accept.
I have never considered my little Kimber Ultra CDP to be big, but in her hands it looked huge, and in contrast her hands looked so small and so fragile.
She handled the gun carefully, turning it one way and then the other. She put her finger on the trigger, then took it off again, she brought the gun up to her eye level and looked across it at the sights, then put it down again as though she was displeased with what she saw.
This was not a target gun or a sporting gun, this was a self-defense gun, a gun carried, designed and modified to be used against threats, primarily from other humans. I don’t think that realization sat well with her.
She stared at the gun for a few short seconds and then looked at me.
She looked so sad, and without saying a word I heard everything she was too polite to say.
She’s sad because she wishes she could have protected me more when I was a child. She’s sad because she realizes she couldn’t. She's sad that I was forced to take my protection into my own hands when she feels it is still her job, and she’s sad to realize she can never and could never truly do that for me. But most of all, she’s sad because she knows the pain I had to go through to come to the point where I’ve decided I could kill to keep from going through it again. She’s sad to see her baby girl strap on a gun to do a job she wishes she could have done seventeen, ten, and five years ago. She’s sad to be reminded she lives in a world were violence touches her little girl. I could see her thinking about her three other children who had not been touched with such violence and how none of them felt they needed a lethal means to defend themselves. I could see her considering my past and how big of a part she thought it played in my decision to start carrying a weapon of self-defense. I could see her sadness at those thoughts.
“You carry this?” she said, her voice almost at a whisper. She brought the gun back up to eye level and I could see her forcing herself to look down the barrel and picture another human being at the other end. She held the gun there for a few more moments and lowered it again. She looked determined to at least try to understand me and my choice to make this gun my companion and protector. Trying to see through the eyes of the girl I was five years ago, forgetting, or maybe just not truly grasping how much different I've become.
“Yes,” I replied, matching her tone.
“Tell me about it,” she said.
For the next couple of moments I shared specs and modifications and reasons I chose the Kimber Ultra CDP over any other gun for my personal defense. When she handed the gun back to me she didn’t necessarily look relieved, but she did smile.
She looked as though she wanted to say something positive about the gun, anything to reassure me that she didn’t think negatively about my choice, or me, but her silence confirmed that no positive words could be found.
She changed the subject.
Over the next few days of my visit she would see me holster my gun and walk outside with my father to do some shooting. She would stare at it on my hip as I laughed, talked, reminisced and enjoyed the company of my family. I told jokes, I teased my Dad, I ran in out of the house for fresh targets, smiling. She got to see, first hand, that carrying it wasn’t a burden, but but a light assurance. I was still her little girl, I was energetic and happy, I was just packing, too. My gun wasn't there as a testimony to my paranoia, but rather to my determination to protect the new and fabulous life I had built for myself over the last five years.
On the day before I left to come home, I holstered my gun to go shoot with my Dad. When I came in, I plopped down beside my mother on the couch with my gun still on my hip and began talking about nothing in particular while my Dad went to get cleaning supplies so we could clean our recently fired firearms.
She stared at the gun less than she had before, and she even remarked at how beautifully the grips matched the belt I was wearing.
“It’s very pretty,” she said, much to my surprise.
As I got up to go upstairs and get changed as my Dad wanted to take me out to eat, I threw a shirt on over my gun and she asked, “Are you going to carry it with you?” Because of her almost positive tone, at first I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, but as I was carrying nothing else I caught on quickly.
I said, “I can’t. It’s Wisconsin, Mom.”
She laughed, “Oh, yes, I forgot.”
As I started to climb the stairs once more she looked again at the holster peeking from beneath my shirt and smiled warmly for the first time since she knew the gun had accompanied me from Pennsylvania.
The sadness in her face was gone and in her own quiet way I think she was telling me that she was starting to understand.
My Dad brags about my decision to carry as though I had won the Pulitzer Prize, my Mom, on the other hand is learning to understand that it wasn’t her fault I decided to carry a gun. She didn’t fail me and the gun on my hip is not a reminder of that failure. It’s not a talisman to ward off the nightmares of my past. The gun is nothing more than a gun, a tool to use in a time of need. There is nothing any of us can do about what happened back then, we can only look to the future and what could happen there. I’m a different girl than I was then, I have another life I’m living, and my gun is one of the many tools I have in place to try to keep my life the way it is.
She sees all of my decisions to carry as the consequence of something negative in my past. But I think she’s starting to understand that while it would be foolish of me to say that doesn’t play a part, there’s a whole lot more positive now. I’m not consumed with just trying to keep an old pain from resurfacing; I’m not carrying a gun just to defend against something bad. While that is a part of it, it’s a very small part. Mostly, I carry to protect something good: my beautiful life.