Camp Gateway

IMG_0717“Wash your face before we leave. Did you brush your teeth at daddy’s? Okay do that, too, and oh, your hair is snaggly at the back. Do you have panties on today? Here, stick these on. Hurry. We gotta go. ” Your sister is going to join us when I take you down to your summer camp. You go to Seymour Center, Ocean Explorer’s “Something’s Fishy” week with nine children your age. Go get your tennies, I know I know tennies is not a word anymore. Because you are going to hike the San Lorenzo River up at Cowell Redwoods. Today you talk about and explore the Coho habitat.You told me you found an unfamiliar sculpin in the tidepool yesterday.You are more bubbly thanĀ  Liza’s toothpaste this morning and tell me about everything.

Your sister does, too. She learned to juggle and has a friend and likes the big playground and the kids are nice and she was a little shy but now she isn’t (already in just one day), she says. Wipe that toothpaste off your mouth. Get your water shoes and get in the car. We are off.

I am happy, so happy. I just got home, from all the dropping off and a quick stop at the store. I took Liza first so she could show you her new playground with the cool monkey bars. You will join her there after we go to Echo Lake for ten days next week, just me and grandpa and your sister. You and she will go everyday all day to the camp near the lighthouse, Camp Gateway. It’s just what you need, to play, get out from under, to enjoy yourself. You are limited at home these days by the “don’t go past the tree” rule, the no bikes, no climbing, no digging rules and then no water. Yikes. Held back, unable and began to feel resentful, trapped. Gateway, a good name, yes, lets push it open and keep it that way all summer so you can run, ride, climb, dig and splash.

I loved the lightness I felt, a relief and a ping of pleasure when I dropped you off, one at a time, and watched you enter the room and be greeted by people who like you, people you are sharing ideas and explorations with…keeping that gate open for you this summer. love gma

Picking Berries


Yesterday gave us a warm sunny day. Yesterday I got up early, wrote for a few hours, took a nap then walked to the garden. You and your sister and brother were in the fenced yard, I could hear you playing. Yesterday I filled the birdbaths, as the chickadees and the sparrows waited for me to get out of their way. They dipped into the clear water, twisting, flapping and splashing-one or two at a time. Raucous fun for a bird. When you heard the water you leaned over the railing and asked to join me. Daddy said okay. Mommy’s friend was in from out of town helping out for a few days. You looked happy, relaxed, cared for and attended to.

I handed you a berry basket. Picking berries, Olallieberries is work that your sister hates. She gets too many scratches and pricks for comfort. She whines at every speck of red blood. She thinks the berry juice is blood, too. She decides to stay home. Only pick the black ones, I remind you. Watch out for poison oak at the back of the rows there. You tell me that you already noticed it and duck under it to get to the last row. When we already have three strawberry baskets full, you find two raspberries from canes I thought died a year back. You offer me one on your palm. Its the sweetest I ever tasted, you say. I wonder if its because we didn’t expect to find a raspberry? I ask you.

When something is rare and you find it, it makes it more special. Its like that with everything, you respond. Grandma, Remember when I told you that you are my sunshine, like the song?

I remember. It was in the car, two days ago and we were listening to Vicki’s CD on the way to the last day of school. I will never forget what you said.

You told me to pause the music and said, I just now understand that song. It was a sad dream, like maybe the boy’s grandma or someone special died and he had a good dream but when he woke up she wasn’t there because she died or something. Maybe she just moved away, but I think she died and he is so sad that he cried. But he still sings about her. And he calls her his sunshine, because she made him feel warm and bright like the sun. And, Grandma, you said to me, tears in your eyes, you are my sunshine. You choked back tears surprised by your own emotion. You touched the wetness on your cheek. I touched mine and patted you on the knee.

Well, you say, mouth bursting with purple juice, “that was true about you being my sunshine. I hope I never will have my sunshine taken away and that you will be alive to meet my kids. They will be your great grandchildren. You will love them. And maybe you will be their sunshine, too. Please be healthy and live for thirty more years.”

That’s my plan, buddy. You must have been so scared when your step-mom was sick, even now watching her, hearing her struggle with all the hard work of healing. Worried that she may not get better, you want to plan, assure your safety. Keenly aware of how fragile life can be.

Yes, you can take one basket to your mommy.

She loves these berries, Grandma.

I have eight baskets, almost enough for a pie. Want to pick again in two or three more days? Then we can roll out the dough, pile in our berries and….

Can you get ice cream for it?

Of course.

Grandma, its okay if we have a couple of reds one in a pie, right?

Sure it ads some sweet to the tart. Makes it perfect. Like life.

“You’ll always know dear, (giggle) how much I love you. Bye Grandma.”

Bye, Sunshine.

Hey, am I your sunshine, too?

You know you are. gma

Do you remember your dreams?


Hi, Buddy. Good Morning.

I had dreams last night that I remember as if they really happened. Does that happen to you? I know your mommy likes to hear about your dreams. And sometimes when you tell me about them, you are dreaming them as you speak, inventing images and ideas on the spot. What an imagination you have. If Ellie stands leaning against my hip, her dreams appear in competition with yours and then all dreaming stops and storytelling begins in earnest. Is there a difference?

I experience them quite differently. My dreams are like the little flakes of calcium that dislodge from the inner lining of my teakettle. They are small fragments that come together is odd, strange, funny and sometimes disturbing ways to make a story ” behind my eyes” as you explained once about dreams. The flakes are not connected at all and then sometimes become one related story.

Last night behind my eyes I was at Seymour Center, UCSC’s Long Marine Lab, for a celebration of some kind, people were dressed up, but I wore shorts and t shirt and flip flops. I was hungry but the food was so fancied up I couldn’t tell what it really was, so I couldn’t eat a thing. I slipped off my flipping and flopping shoes to sneak into the kitchen for something to eat and joined a party of workers having a party of their own. They were eating huge tuna sandwiches they had made, there were platters of them, with grated carrots and grated beets and tomatoes piled high. They asked me to join them. But then I had to help departing guest find their cars. I was barefoot. My flip flops were not where I had left them. My backpack was gone, too. “I am a fancy guest” “I donated money. I am…(I really said this in my dream)….a millionaire. Don’t judge a book by its cover” Why would they believe me? I was barefoot, had no identification like my driver’s license or anything. So I had to go outside in the dark and escort people to their cars and my feet got scraped, bumped, and bruised.

After everyone left, I said good bye to the sharks in the tank, the otter without and ear and the sea lion cub. And found my flip flops in the tank. They had sunk to the bottom ( rules of science don’t apply in this dream). I am not a good swimmer, but I dived down and got them. The sea lion cub, slid along my body, and like Mickey in the Night Kitchen I somehow had become naked. The slippery cub was lovely, warm and it’s touch welcomed. I dried off, picked up my pack, opened it to check for my wallet but my pack was full of cash, paper money bulging out. I pulled it out by the handful and put it all in the clear donation box by the door. Found my car and drove away. Stopped, went back and Returned to the kitchen party and got one more of those tuna sandwiches. THE END

Some links to real life:

I bought new flip flops for my trip to Brazil. I love them.

My wallet was bulging with money after I exchanged my reals for dollars.

You are going to a Sea Explorers summer camp in June at Seymour Center.

I loved the tuna sandwich at the acai place in Florianopolis, Brasil.

I went to bed a bit hungry.

The crazy house cleaner threw out toys, sox, papers and clothes that she dug out from under your couch mixed with mouse droppings. We discovered that the two pairs of shoes Id gotten each of you kids before I left on vacation were missing or half missing. Yesterday I found only one of yours, your brothers and one of your sisters new flip flops.

I re parked all the cars yesterday so the dump run guy, Rocky, could take away one shoe from each pair of your shoes along with other things I cannot imagine. Other things that will prove to be missing at some point.

I am not a millionaire.

I am a misfit in fancy social settings.

I am and always will be a working class kid.

I have a vivid imagination and dream in color.

Happy Dreaming, buddy. I hope you remember your dreams from time to time and will enjoy trying to make sense of them. gma


the Vest

people riding horses on beach
Photo by Bianca on

I shortened my breath, pulled through a stack of clean laundry, flung hangars aside searching. I had to find it. Today I must, I knew, wear that vest. My favorite, I have had it for years. Tears streaming, hiccuping with emotion, desperate for the comfort, familiarity. Lost, It has to be here. Sweats, wool sox, foggy outside, a cotton long sleeved layered up. But that vest…..Oh there you are. I slip in one arm then another, zip up, slowly like you do with those brass metal zippers. I has that good zip sound, deep like shuffling a deck of cards. I put it on and am protected. Ready for whatever hard thing that’s coming next.

It’s my writing vest, especially when I know I am tackling a difficult scene. My vest, the one I bought at a feed and tack store over twenty years ago, is dark green, quilted, lightly filled. Tattered. Its been through it all. It may have been made for horseback riding. I see a tiny horse on the zipper pull.

I wore it on trails, I wore it when I was afraid. Afraid of everything some days. Out there in the woods, trying to escape the demons.

Today I will go back to Your daddy and step-mom’s house. Tackle stacks of papers, dirty clothes, old food, broken toys and rodent droppings. I’ll wear gloves, a mask and take my bottle of disinfectant. You live here all the time. You manage mask-less, no vest, no gloves. How do you do it? You just do, right? You are a kid. You cope.

Yesterday a social worker came to your house when I was cleaning, Auntie Robin was washing the dishes. Most of the stuff from the house was outside covered by tarps, bags and bags in the dump run pile. She saw a different house than your mommy and daddy left. She saw counters, floors and medications stored away. She heard from someone that you and your sister and brother were living in squalor, that you lived with rodents, their droppings, ate spoiled food and that mommy and daddy’s medicines were not secure. All of that was true. And my sister and I worked hard to make it go away this week. We scrubbed and sorted and I am doing more today.

I am washing your clothes, loads and loads of them. I am polishing the floors, sweeping away the rodent poo and cobwebs. I am covering for your step mom. SAnd Dad. He is in a little trouble with CPS. He will have to do better for you. He knows and has a hard time following the rules. Mommy knows too.

She said she was sorry.

When they come back I will have rules, too. Rules about cleanliness, safety and reasonable expectations. I know mommy is going to have a hard time out of the hospital, but she will get used to it. She will get stronger. She will need your help. And so will daddy. But remember they are the grown ups. It is their job to keep you safe, healthy and growing strong and smarter. Your job is to be kind to your sister, your bother, and parents. Love them and yourself. Play, pick up after yourself and feed the chickens. I can help. But only for awhile, then I have to rest. And as long as I wear my vest I can be a super hero. For you. gma