Month: February 2016

Where Do They Sleep, Ama?

Where Do They Sleep, Ama?

When Theo was three going on four, we went all over Golden Gate Park exploring one of the finest parks America has to offer.

Such as De Young,


Academy of Science,


Botanical Gardens,


with outdoor music to raise the soul’s aspiring heights,


these four of many institutes gave Theo ideas of how society is structured. The park is 52 blocks long and nine blocks wide, giving a lot of space for people to gather their thoughts and find new solutions to problems that rack a person’s life.

Of course, in any such large space, with homelessness increasing each year, (some years greater than others such as 2008) there are people not just contemplating how to solve a problem,


but try and make a problem of shelter into a viable solution of survival.

He being just three, the complexity of homelessness was hard for him to grasp. Therefore, rather than have him deal with abstract ideas of what it is, I made sure we sat down and interchanged with groups of them. In San Francisco, there are several thousand trying to survive. Several hundred of them, make the Golden Gate Park their permanent residence, therefore many days were spent listening and interacting with the shelter challenged individuals.

One day while we were interacting with them, it dawns on him and he blurts out to me, “Where do they sleep Ama?”

For some particular reason he always called me Ama rather than momma, until he reached age of public schooling. Then his classmates taught him momma was more the common term of referring to ones mother. From those days on, I was momma, mom, or mother rather than Ama.

“Well son they sleep many places, under bushes, under trees, many different places.” I responded.

He was silent for a moment, then he asked, “Can I see where they sleep?”

“It would mean you have to get up early to see for yourself.” I replied. “I mean very early, much earlier than you have ever risen.”

Again the silence indicating deep in thought, “That’s okay, I want to know!”

Referring back to The Landing, I have a stubborn streak wider than the Mississippi River on my back, and somehow those genes were carried forth to my son, only his back is a tad bit smaller than mine.

At the time, we were living at the Civic Center residence


and several hundred people shared the building as their shelter. A hotel was converted from a single night occupancy into the room being a month occupancy. First, there was the waiting list, then acceptance, and finally if you passed the hurdles, a year lease was signed with month by month occupancy thereafter. We lived there for a year and a half on the sixth floor before moving into a house in Palo Alto.

Therefore everyone living there became ‘family’. It is extremely difficult not to know everybody’s business and mainly the best was expected of each other. Every person’s best was different from all the rest, each person operates at different levels of functionality.

By the time he asked the question, “Where do they sleep, Ama?”, most of our neighbors/family were quite accustomed to the fact I chose to raise Theo in a slightly different manner than most people’s parental pattern.

Still, did I really want to take Theo out past midnight in the park?

So I kept Theo up until 11 pm, trying to make him exhausted. He crawled into bed to take a ‘nap’, only to have his eyes pop open promptly at 1 am.

” Let’s go Ama!” He excitedly said. But I dragged my feet thinking maybe if I am slow this will get him tired and he’s going to go back to sleep. Didn’t work. He was bound to KNOW where they slept each night. Remember that this is a three year old, he was working on his fourth year but he hadn’t quite made it yet.

All the different hurdles set before him, he gently reminded me I HAD promised to show him where they slept. Going past the desk clerk and security guard was the easy part of judgement from folks who know a child is suppose to be in bed at 3am in the morning! They only frowned slightly at me,


unlike the folks on the 5 Fulton bus which was a 24 hr service line, those caring people gave me downright the ‘evil eye’!

By the time we got to Golden Gate Park, the ‘evil eye’ turned into complete confusion (about a twenty minute bus ride), because they overheard our conversation about where they might be sleeping. Through logical reasoning, they began grasping a brief view of the iceberg I was trying to steer in the vast ocean of life.

Raising Theo has got be one of my greatest gifts and challenges at the same intwined time!

Once we get off the bus and get about a football field’s length into the park,


he realizes it is very very dark and scarey out at this hour. Street lights aren’t part of every block and light is a rare commodity, therefore he grabs my leg a squeezes like I have NEVER felt before or ever again during my raising of Theo.

“It’s okay love!” I say in my quiet calm tone. “It’s just the dark, give your eyes time to adjust… It’ll be okay.” Several minutes later his eyes adjust, he unlocks my leg from his grasp and he starts to seek the answer to his question.


Earlier I had given the heads-up letting our friends know Theo was on a mission to KNOW what exactly they did every night.


Therefore, everybody knew a visitor was going to be in their camp that night.

Interestingly enough,


not a single person awakened,


Theo was so careful at being quiet, never once did we disturb anyone’s sleep cycle. Also between 2am and 5am most people’s sleep is their deepest,


(Later in another piece I’ll address violations occurring at that hour by profiteering personnel) therefore, it didn’t surprise me, that much, of them sleeping through our ‘visit’.

After we had visited most of the people he knew, and it wasn’t quite sunrise, he took us to the playground and there under the boat we slept. (The boat no longer is there.) An hour after sunrise he arose.


“It’s cold and hard sleeping that way!” He said ever so quiet with an awesome respect intwined within his tone. “Is that why they die so early Ama?”

“Yes, my son, living on the streets can kill you earlier than need be!” I quietly answered.

The Landing

The Landing


My son began climbing at a very young age. There are pictures of me and my son on my back in one of those baby backpacks with he and I, 20 and more feet climbing a tree. Consequently his fear of heights barely existed. I remember when he was six months old, and hearing this exhilarating laughter from the living room which made me take my hands out of the dishwashing sink to see what all the laughter was about; there he was swinging on the drapes from one side to the other just having a blast. Checking the strength of the curtain rods made me comfortable enough for his play to continue.

Round about ten months old, a beautiful young woman lived above us in our apartment complex of several dozen apartment buildings. Kinda like the faithful dog who waits at the end of the road for his friends to get off the school bus, Theo would wait at the door for her usual scheduled journey home. I would revel in how his face lit up and his body squirmed, wiggled with pure energy as he saw her walking down the sidewalk.

One day when silence was too prevalent, I took my hands out of the dishwater to go see what was up. What was up was he had began climbing the stairs to go and investigate just what and where did she disappear to. Since, my job of a mother is to watch and guide the baby, I remained outside and watched as he slowly ascended the cement steps leading to her apartment. It took him nearly a half an hour for him to get to the top and then find her apartment (still today I wonder how he seemed to know which one was hers- was it smell, or did he hear and identify just which door).

He did everything in his baby power to pursuade me to carry him down the steps. Ask anybody who knows me, there is a stubborn streak wider than the Mississippi river running down my back, and no; if you climb up, you must learn to climb down. Climbing down has an entirely different movement required and such skills can only be learned through doing the action. It took him nearly an hour, because there were far more breaks trying to paddle up the Mississippi river running down my back. Finally he did it, and such pride he did have of his accomplishments, that on a regular basis he would climb the stairs to see his beautiful friend who lived above us.


When he was a year and a half years old he was about twelve feet in the air climbing a playground appartus when a kindly lady voiced her concern and said, “Don’t you think he is a little to young to be climbing that high?”

  1. My response was “No. I’ve tried to coax him higher but he only climbs to the level he is comfortable with. Besides its not my duty to instill my fears upon him. My job is to watch and guide him.” We ladies soul searched each other looking deeply into each others eyes. Was I being righteous with his care? She decided to sit back on the bench and watch him from a distance.



About four years later, at the same playground a single father and his son who we had known for nearly two years happened to cross our paths again. Since we hadn’t seen each other in nearly half a year, we got caught up in sharing the day’s excitements for those missing moments. All of a sudden, we realize where are the boys?

Ah I knew- so we went around to the other side of the playground and ten feet up in the air was his youngin’ and a good twenty feet my son was climbing the over one hundred year old pine tree. The top was well over forty feet and today Theo tells me that HAD BEEN the goal.

The father nearly had a heart attack right then and there, “You get out of that tree- right NOW!!!” he screamed at his son.

Me knowing the development of my son and watching him study the pattern of the tree for nearly a month, “Good job Theo, great climbing skills!” This time the response was total surprise ‘what- a woman NOT scolding a child for going too high?’ and the single dad said, “you’re not upset he is that high?” I explained my idea on parenthood.

Out of respect for all society the boys climbed down. Father was much more at ease!


Jump to when he is eight years old and we have climbed many cliffs and objects safe enough to handle our weight. On the third friday of the month, we had Freak Show 2000 where sometimes hundreds of people gathered at the cliffs near the Cliff House on the beach of San Francisco. There musicians of all instruments showed up and from sundown to sunrise the drum circle made sweet heavenly music to the rhythm of the waves crashing in the caves that nature supplied. Those moments are probably one of the most magic moments we have ever shared- Theo and I we be dedicated drum circlites. We never missed a Friday for over a year and a half.

Well half a year into the magic, one night a man and his two friends came to me very concerned that Theo was scaling the cliffs. To let you know, the cliffs are made of a shale sort of substance rather than the normal solid rock like most climbs we had accomplished. Theo loved the challenge! So my response is, “It’s not the fall that will kill you, it’s the landing. I am pretty confident in his skills of landing. He has taken a few falls in his young life- his skills are quite excellent in that department.”

Ask a friend or two, I can be quite pompous with my skills in life, bleeding that into my son’s character. It was about three o’clock in the morning when the same man tells me to come see about Theo because he has fallen off the cliff. I am led to where my son is sitting, and I can see he is shaken up a bit.

I take the time to completely give him a through body examination… including noting if his pupils are denoting a brain injury. His only harm done is scratched hands and a long scratch just below his nipples and sweeping across his abdomen to just where his back begins. The examination took a good fifteen minutes.

All done I say, “Well show me where he fell!” Off they (his two friends) lead me to where Theo has fallen.


This time my dismay blurts out my mouth with zero filtering ability, “Holy f***ing Christ, are you kidding me!!!”

The fall was a minimum of a hundred feet, possibly more and when I got back to where Theo sat patiently waiting for my return, the best I could do was extend my hand and shake the hand of a true master. “Man Theo, you passed the test of landing!”

“So what do you want to do?” I ask.

“Go home.” He replied. The only time we ever left that drum circle before sunrise!

Today neither one of us can climb a tree or scale a cliff, our bones and inner ear have been too damaged by the disease we have been forced to endure these six long torturous years!


Yet, I keep telling Theo over and over “Honey, when we finally get help, the miracle of the human body’s design will show you we CAN heal and once again do the action we both LOVE SO MUCH!”