An attempt, albeit potentially futile, to return yellow denim to blue was called for. As I knelt on hard rocks over creek water with dish soap in hand and no clothes washer in sight, I was contemplative. I was automatically driven to wonder whether my great grandmother Lizzie had scrubbed clothing against these same creek rocks in years past. I voiced the quandary to Elyse, whose immediate response was, "That's exactly what I was thinking." Well of course it was; our family is like that. Our feet are firmly planted in one generation yet our heads and hearts span several.
In the early 1900s, my great-grandfather Jude Valdez Allen established a gold claim high in the northern California mountains. I'm sure this is somehow related to my living these many years later at 6000 ft. elevation; it's in the blood I suppose. Save for a short respite, that same claim has been in my family ever since. My great grandfather had been in search of gold --the kind rings are made of, the kind that feeds families and security and dreams.
|Jude Valdez Allen on the claim|
He never, to my knowledge, struck it rich, but gold was found, a tent was pitched, a cabin was built, and sedans were pushed by uncles across creeks and up grades that sedans had not been designed to traverse. Children played in creek water, made memories, grew up, and brought their own babies to those woods. Fire pits were set alight, stories were told, and snow load collapsed a cabin. Character was built, self reliance honed, and memories made.
In 2013 some 80+ descendants of Jude Valdez and Elizabeth Allen (for whom Elyse is named), along with an enormous cadre of mismatched family dogs, gathered yet again on that claim. There were four wheel drives that didn't-- as their predecessors had-- require pushing across the creek. Tents were pitched, fire pits were lighted, and stories were told. Children played in the creek where their grandparents and great-grandparents had played. A snake scare was averted, a tiny gold flake was found, and armed claim jumpers were redirected. White haired ones told stories of their dear parents and re-glimpsed their own childhoods through new experiences radiating from young ones' eyes. There were blue jeans, cast iron cookware, and mustard.
Gold was gathered there. Not the kind my great-grandfather had been after, but the kind of gold that generations are made of. It seems that my great-grandfather and his precious and honored wife Lizzie had struck it rich after all.
Pax Christi dear ones,
May we always remember that, no matter the day's mediocrity, we are raising generations -- each one of us -- no matter how young -- even before we've begun.
They'll drink in your values and they'll tell your stories. Make them good ones.
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