I grew up in the south end of Seattle. In what, in 1993, became officially the city of Burien. It is a great little part of the country. Water on one side, mountains on the other. Seattle to the north and Tacoma to the south. Our neighborhood was a working class neighborhood. We lived on 142nd street in a rental house for ten years. The septic system would often back up. It was a sparse existence. It was heated with oil. But sometimes we couldn’t fill the tank. My parents had started us out in California where we lived in a new house in a new neighborhood with new cars and new schools. Then dad got sick and was out of work for almost a year. They lost everything. First the cars, then the house. That is how we ended up back in Seattle. I arrive just in time to start first grade . We didn’t have money for school cloths so Mom made us each a couple of dresses and bought us a package of new underwear and socks. It was quite hard on them. She got a job cooking at a Catholic boys home and Dad started driving big rigs. Those were the occupations they would have the rest of their lives.
Mom and Dad worked hard. they never called in sick. They never went to a doctor despite the fact that in the 60’s and 70’s Dad’s Teamster insurance was absolutely stellar. But we used it sparingly. No sense of being entitled but knew it as a benefit we would not take for granted or abused. Dad had witnessed awful death in the Korean War when he was 17 and 18. Now he worked and he tried hard to provide for his little family.
I was a silly little kid. I really never “got” what struggles Mom and Dad had trying to restart the family in Washington. How Dad must have felt losing everything he had worked for and how Mom worried about us all.
Dad really wanted us all to go to college. But in our neighborhood, it didn’t seem likely. Most people got jobs at the “Lazy B” aka Boeing. Good jobs. But Dad wanted college. So one by one each of us jumped in. I started Central Washington University in the Fall of 79. But I lacked real direction. And after several changes in my major, and schools, I simply faded into life at the corn cannery. I got married and was happy. But we, too, did not have a lot of financial means.
Back in California, before everything changed, I used to watch television with my mother in the morning before going to the afternoon session of my kindergarten class. (NOT KIN-DEE-GARDEN). We watched Perry Mason every day. I loved the court room stuff. I thought to myself that i wanted to be a lawyer. That prosecutor, Hamilton Burger doesn’t seem to win. Ever. I would try hard to win! But as life in Seattle and the bleakness of it settled in, I convinced myself I did not have the money or the brains to become an attorney. And the dream shrank to a small pit of regret in my stomach.
During my adult life in Ellensburg, I made the best of things. I loved being married and was generally happy. I always thought if I had only gotten my education I could provide more for our household. But stabs at this job and that job simply yielded a minimum of earnings. And then the divorce. The lowest time of my life other than the loss of my mother.
I went to Las Vegas where my father and brother lived. Joe had moved in 90 and Dad had gone in 94 after mom passed and he sold the house. I got a job selling D paper loans for Household Finance. I left there to sell long distance for a company that ended up nothing more than a call center full of shysters ripping people off and loving it. Then I went to Starbucks. None of these jobs paid enough to even exist. So I decided I had to reinvent myself. I had to do something! I went to Paralegal School and got a good job. Then I finished my undergrad in 2002 through WSU’s distance learning program. After that I got into law school. and as I sit here today, July 4, 2014 have been doing Hamilton Burger’s job for 6 years.
So what is the point of all this? Well, as I sat in the warm sun today, it occurred to me just what a person can do in this country. What millions of people come here for. The chance to make of their own lives what they desire to. It doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and work. It takes time and sacrifice. And it takes the sacrifice of military men and women in every war since the revolution. But it is also something that you can do any time in your life if you are willing to take the chance and not let the fear of change stop you. Live your dreams. Find out what you want and make a plan to get there. That is what Independence Day has given to me. Dreams……and the ability to pursue them!