This month has been a time of traveling, connecting and thinking outside of my life’s little box. I was lucky enough to spend some February days with family in California where the grass was green, the trees were in bloom, and the flowerboxes screamed “Springtime!”
I always appreciate going home. I love the feel of the California sun on my face. Riding along with the car windows open in February is such a gift for someone from snow country! Leaning back with a huge smile on my face, I can feel winter’s cobwebs lift from my body and fly out the window. I can’t wait to get on a bike or out on a walking trail. Feasting my eyes on people in colorful clothes, some even wearing flip flops and short sleeved t-shirts, revives me. People are outside. They’re sauntering. My heart soars.
I give thanks to my parents and grandparents for choosing to settle in the west – all those Cockertons who came to northern California from England in the 1800s and the Jamiesons who came west from Scotland to settle outside of Sacramento. They gave me the legacy of a landscape full of green hills and oak trees bordering the Pacific. Like my mother and grandmother, I am a Native Daughter of the Golden West!
Throughout my childhood I sat by my grandmother’s side and asked her to tell me about her family’s adventures. When I was in high school I used to drive over to her house to spend the night. She was in her 80s and we thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. Granny was a loving mother of 9 with nearly 18 adoring grandchildren and a handful of great-grandchildren to boot. She was our beloved matriarch, all five feet of her. She was also an awe- inspiring storyteller.
One of my favorite childhood tales was the story my grandmother used to tell about her family’s move to northern California when she was 10 years old. The journey began in Fresno with a small group of wagons and a giant flock of sheep.
She always set the stage as I got ready for bed. Her family members were as familiar to me as my favorite storybook characters. After I brushed my teeth she would continue the story, walking around the house turning out the lights in the kitchen and the living room. I would crawl in bed, snuggle under the covers, and glance up at a photo of her family that hung above the bed.
The most riveting part of the story came when she told about the difficulties they had crossing a river after a big storm. The rain had made it almost impossible for the group to forge the river without being swept downstream but her father and brothers got them all safely across. The way she described the ordeal was mesmerizing.
At the point where I knew my ancestors were safely on the road north with their big flock of sheep, I would start to drift. By the time her false teeth made their way through the Polident bubbles and landed gently at the bottom of the little glass on her bedside table, I would feel cozy and content, wrapped up in the warmth of a family tale.
This is the sense of family and belonging I hope I have woven into the tapestry of my children’s lives. I certainly had a wonderful mentor. My grandmother gave me the gift of her goodness. It radiated from her. I was still in my early twenties when my father died. I flew home from New York, drove straight to my grandmother’s, and lay my head in her lap. Her presence was an immense comfort to me.
I believe all children deserve to experience generosity, kindness, and the feeling of belonging that I felt when I spent time with my grandmother. During my trip I was fortunate to spend time riding bikes, walking at Land’s End in San Francisco and meandering down College Avenue in Berkeley with like-minded folks who are eager to collaborate on inspiring a re-envisioning of foster care in America.
Together we are developing new ways to enhance the lives of children from the east coast to the west coast and beyond. It is definitely an idea whose time has come. Stay tuned. We’re moving forward with my grandmother’s legacy nestled firmly in our hearts.
We hope you find our innovative efforts worthy of your financial support. We need it to effect the level of change this task requires. If you do, please make a donation at our secure website: www.treehousecommunities.org