Monday would have been my first day back at work after my maternity leave. It’s very, very strange to think about this. I have been working for the same non-profit organization for the past 13 years. It’s amazing, really, how everything just worked out….
I had just graduated from college. Fresh-faced and brave (or immature and stupid, depending on who you talked to). My roommates and I decided we should move someplace warmer. We pulled out the map and tossed a quarter. It landed on Yuma, Arizona. That’s basically the armpit of the country – hot, disgusting, and smelly. (No offense to any of you Yuma-ites out there!) So it was either San Diego or Phoenix. The pull of the ocean had us! I had never been to San Diego. We signed a lease on an apartment we had never seen. None of us had jobs. I packed up my car and road-tripped it across country. I arrived on my 21st birthday. I thought I would stay for a year, maybe two. I ended up staying for almost seven.
I found the ad for the job at CASAS on the Internet (this was a big deal back then). I had never heard of “adult education;” I didn’t even know it existed. I interviewed and got the job immediately. I loved my job! And I got to use my degree everyday, which made my parents happy! Little did I know that by accepting the job, I would also be joining a group of co-workers that would become like a family to me.
The office “grandmother” was named Ruby – she was the kind of person who put a smile on your face, no matter what. Her bright blue eyes sparkled. She laughed. She walked around saying things like “Bless your pointy little head!” She gave support and encouragement; she loved. My mom told me once “I’m ok with you living 2,000 miles away because I know that Ruby and your work family will make sure you are safe.”
When mom was diagnosed with cancer, my boss suggested that I become a telecommuter and work from my home in Minnesota. Ah – yes, please! It made the transition so much easier. I wasn’t ready to leave California, but I knew I needed to be near mom. It made me feel better knowing I still had some sort of connection to California and my work “family.”
Ruby and I lost touch over the years – I kept meaning to call her or send a note, but I always got distracted and “ran out of time.” In 2011, I heard that Ruby had died from cancer. Even though it had been years since I talked to her, I still thought of her often. She shaped my life so much and it was really hard to think of the world without her sparkly blue eyes, contagious laugh, and positive attitude.
You see, you would never have known that Ruby had suffered physical and emotional abuse from her husband, or that she had lived in poverty. You wouldn’t have known that she had buried two children because of cancer. You would never have known that she herself had battled cancer more than once. You wouldn’t know because she was. so. happy. She faced so much adversity and sorrow in her life; I asked her (repeatedly) how she could still be such a cheerful person. She always answered without hesitation “Faith.”
When Jaxson was born, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it. How would I put one foot in front of the other? How would I be able to take care of him when I was so scared? And then I thought of Ruby and I knew that if she could do it, I could do it. I knew that if Ruby’s “reason” was faith, that could be my reason, too. Our faith was different: her’s was in God, mine was in Guardian Angels. But it gave me hope.
So, not only am I leaving a job and organization that helped make a difference in people’s lives, I’m leaving a family that helped me make the transition from party-animal college kid to responsible adult. I’m leaving a family that taught me to believe in faith.
So, while I am excited to be on this new stay-at-home-mom adventure, I’m a bit sad and nostalgic, too. Thanks, CASAS family, for being with me through the years and for all of your love and support!