Basking in Thoughts of Our Children

by on January 20, 2010 · 19 comments

in Culture, From the Soul

Ernie McCray kidsEditor: Along with this post, Ernie McCray also sent us the following, which is really addressed to our readers as well as to us:

Hey, thanks for letting me get my grief out for all these months. With the sentiments in this piece being said I think I’m ready to get more into what I’m into politically and socially.  Anyway here tis:

Our children. They have always been our pride and joy. Two girls, Tawny Maya and Nyla Summer and Carlos Biko, our tremendously energetic boy. I can’t adequately express just how much I admire them for how they’ve stood tall in spite of the smothering sadness they’ve endured with their mother no longer in their lives other than in a spiritual sense.

I don’t know how I could have made it without them making sure that we continue hanging out to have a little fun every now and then as we’ve always done as a family.

Raising these beautiful people with Nancy has, on the whole, been a ball, filled with some moments that were like a walk through the park on a nice sunny day and some moments like those parents experience when they’re reduced to talking in tongues and thumbing through the Old Testament for instructions on sacrificing their little darlings as burnt offerings.

It seems like just when you think you have the parenting thing down something happens like when one of them, guess who, at age 16, drives up in a 280 Z because we had assumed that our “You’re too young, you don’t need a car!” was the equivalent of “Hell no!” You win some and you lose some.

As I look back over the years of bringing the kids up the images in my mind flash by like scenes in a time lapse movie show. One moment we’re singing them lullabies and little made up free style ditties as they gurgle and coo and go poo – then we’re teaching them to swim and watching them perform in water shows, all before they’re a year old – then we’re cracking up looking at videos created out of the most imaginative of minds – then they’re playing the piano and the flute and the clarinet and the French Horn and tapping and jazz dancing and playing soccer and basketball and softball and baseball and roller hockey and running track and we’re running around at their schools fundraising for this and that.

Then, voila, the kids are grown and gone, out on their own, stopping by on occasion for a little loan – or a big one.

And it’s so gratifying to see that they’re out there in this troubled world striving to do the right thing because, in our hearts, we always felt that that’s what we were modeling. What more could we ask of them?

I love that they are following passions they acquired when they were little. They all write and Tawny is struggling to make a career as a journalist as newspapers die. Two summers ago her mom and I were filled with pride when she won an award for an article she wrote for the Chula Vista Star News, an article with which I, as a black man, can fully identify, to wit: a Latino father, son, and holy man were mistaken for thieves and as Tawny probed she found that their color being brown had a lot to do with what went down.

Now, Tawny, when she’s not freelancing for a writing syndicate, works as a nanny for a beautiful little boy in OB. He’s as lucky as he can be. The loss of her mother has not altered her relationship with this tiny fellow to any degree.

Nyla, a nanny also, has always been fascinated with children (she breast fed her dolls as a little girl) and, years ago, she cared for twin girls in OB, in her special tender way, while earning a degree at SDSU in Child Development. Now she has her sights on a nursing degree, hoping to enter the field of midwifery. I’ve been in awe of how she managed in all her grief to earn top grades in some pretty gnarly science heavy pre-nursing classes.

Carlos, too, has a special way with children, and has found social work a satisfying way to work with them and is now pursuing a masters in the field at good old Montezuma Mesa. I like the way he has kept in touch with families who are no longer his responsibility, indicating that he’s willing to go far beyond the basics called for in his profession. And he, like Nyla, rather than succumbing to the intense sorrow that has plagued us, managed to pass his courses with the grades required of him in graduate school.

Oh, how I adore them and I will always cherish how comforting they’ve been to me and I hope with all that’s in me that I’ve reciprocated their generous outpouring of love in our time of need.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

doug porter January 20, 2010 at 11:32 am

your pieces are beautiful and moving, ernie.
the struggle for justice awaits your valuable contributions whenever you are ready and i suspect your vision will be clearer as a result of the reflections that you have made on life and what’s really important. si se puede!


Ernie McCray January 20, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Like getting Obama to understand, since he doesn’t seem to, that there are a lot of us old “progressives” out here that have his back if he’d just step out there and knock a chip off a shoulder or two and stand pat for equality for all and bring our kids home from chasing thugs back and forth across Middle Eastern borders. The streets wouldn’t be able to hold us.


jon January 20, 2010 at 12:19 pm

Another gem Ernie! Thank you for sharing with us. You have a beautiful way of writing and a beautiful family as well. You should be extremely proud just as I’m sure they are proud of you.


Ernie McCray January 20, 2010 at 5:18 pm

I’d like to think that we’re proud of each other (or “arch uther” as the girls used to say when they were beginning to talk – or beginning to talk so that we could understand them as they seemed to talk to each other when they were but days old, laughing uproariously as though Richard Pryor and George Carlin were in the room talking baby talk or something).


Sherry Engberg January 20, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Nice Ark Tickle . (We can too invent words like little kids.) Looking forward to others.


Ernie McCray January 20, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Pretty inventive, Sherry.


Shirley Sprinkles January 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Another beautiful piece, buddy-of-mine. The kids are just beautiful! Wonderful human beings–just like their parents. I’m proud of all y’all!
Isn’t that “twin speak” stuff fascinating? I’m observing it in my grand babies.


Ernie McCray January 20, 2010 at 6:20 pm

“Twin speak” says a lot about the ability of infants to communicate as we’re finding out from parents who “sign” with their babies. It is, indeed, amazing. Good to hear from you homey. I’ve got to call you and Ralston to see how his special day went out Arizona way. I know you’re holding your breath. I know, I’m terrible. I’ve got to overcome my phone phobia. Love ya.


wendyEllen January 20, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Beautiful….especially since I was a part of all that watching your kids and mine grow up together! I remember first meeting Nancy in the JCC when the twins were infants at the swimming pool….our kids truly model our deep spirits and values in the way they negotiate life and adulthood…I watch the very best of myself reflected in some of their actions…and that is the very best part of parenthood!!! sounds like you are turning the corner Ernie…bravo…there is so much more to go! Hurrah!


Ernie McCray January 20, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Yeah, part of me is around the corner, with part of me running hard to catch up and I’m rooting for that part like a man with a thousand dollar bet on a nag leaving the starting gate at 30-1 odds.


Ed Leon January 21, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Ernie, you are a man of the heart, and this fact is mirrored in your magnificent, altruistic, beautiful progeny! Would that all parents could be so loving, dedicated, and supportive! You and Nancy have produced a legacy in your children that assures us of great hope for our future generations. Your children will surely emulate their parents’ contribution to their development, as they guide and support others, then create their own dear families! It is quite obvious that your wife and their mother has not departed. She is, and will always be, a vital part of all four of you. What a tribute to her and to you!


Ernie McCray January 21, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Thanks, Big Ed.


lane tobias January 21, 2010 at 8:50 pm

“you should be proud” -something a lot of people say to parents when their kids are good, upstanding folks. but in this case, its obvious that you should also be proud because you brought them up to be that way.

i love your writing, and look forward to more.


Ernie McCray January 21, 2010 at 11:07 pm

More is on the way.


Carolyn Morris January 21, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I feel as though I know your children, their values and some of their desires. I would love to have grown up with them as they remind me, very much, of my own children and how much they wanted to please me and their father. In retrospect, it seems that being involved in their activities in school and the community was often the glue that held everything together…Your writings elicit many thoughts and feelings from the past regarding family.


Ernie McCray January 22, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Being involved in their schools, for us, was an absolute delight, grilling hamburgers and hot dogs or working in cramped snack bars at ball games and begging businesses to contribute prizes for the raffles we seemed to always be selling tickets for, chaperoning at dances and dancing more than the kids, just being around. Some parents would say that their kids didn’t want them around at their high school functions and we felt that that was a more crucial time than when they were in kindergarten when they really didn’t particularly need you around although we volunteered at all levels of their schooling. They didn’t seem to mind, or at least not much. It was all fun.


Sunshine January 22, 2010 at 9:52 am

We have not had the pleasure of meeting each other outside this blog, yet through your writings I feel kinship with you. You write from the heart and your words flow smoothly and fluidly like a mighty river traveling toward the magnificent sea gifting all along the way with live giving energy. Bravo!

As I raise my son on my own, I am forever grateful for OB and OBceans. This community freely offers what I always wanted for my family. I’ve heard it said, “It takes a village to raise a child” and OB is a wonderful community where the principles I value are very apparent. The neighbors we’ve met here genuinely care about my son and me, the supportive and loving friendships we’re developing build us up in ways I can never fully repay, and the inspiration to continue being the best parent I can to my son continues to stream in from people like you. I am honored to call OB home.

Raising my son alone all these has not always been easy. Shortly after we moved here, my son went missing for over 24 hours. I was one breath short of hysterical the entire time he was missing and kept having to make a consious effort to banish thoughts of his possible demise. Neighbors and friends rallied around me, encouraged me to hope for the best, and let me cry on their shoulders when my unguarded thoughts got the worst of me. Thank god they stopped me from calling the Coast Guard (yes, I was THAT worried). I have never felt so supported in time of crisis as I was over those 27 hours. Long story short, he came riding up on his bike about 3pm the next afternoon and casually said, “hey, mom.” I lost it. I was so relieved to see him alive, I grabbed him and held him so tight that I thought he would break in two while muttering through my sobs something to the effect that he was forbidden put me through that kind of terror ever again. As it turned out, he decided to spend the night with “new friends” and explore the underworld of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Gotta love em, right? At least he was able to get that out of his system in a day. Hell, it took me 17 years to get that outta mine.

One night was enough for him and that’s all behind him now. He’s focusing on higher goals these days. After graduating from homeschool two years early last September, he’s restoring our 1970 VW Van, looking to get his Masters Degree in Metaphysical Theology within the next year, and has been offered full scholarship to MIT. Not bad for 16, not bad at all.

Keep writing, Ernie. I continue to be inspired by your life.


Ernie McCray January 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Hey, you keep writing. Your comments are quite inspiring. I remember some harrowing moments or two. One, in particular, when the girls were attending Cal State Northridge and were returning to the campus on greyhound after a visit home. We asked them to give us a call as soon as they arrived. When we didn’t get a call right away we didn’t think much about it, then time passed and we called the school and they weren’t there. We called the highway patrol to see if their had been an accident which impeded traffic and they said that traffic in the area had run smoothly all evening. Hours passed (we’re talking early morning hours) and panic set in. We finally called school security and they drove to the bus station which closed at a certain time at night and there was no taxi service. They found the girls sitting in a doorway, in the dark, and took them to their dorm.
We nearly died with the worst thoughts imaginable about what had happened to them. I went to Marvin Elementary where I was principal at the time, having gone without a minute of sleep – but I learned something: a zombie can run a school (smile).
Anyway, it seems like your son has it together and is on a road to a good life. Isn’t that a great feeling.


Pat Knoop January 29, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Grat atricle as always. Your wonderful children were very lucky to have you and Nancy as their loving parents. You guys did a wondeful job of raising them with good family values. I’m so glad to know that they have been there for you during these past rough months and that you are doing so well and getting back on track with your life.


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