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Saturday, August 15, 2009

We graduated our Rosie's Girls yesterday and a prouder gaggle of grownups have rarely been seen ...

The girls were gathered in a circle at the head of the community room at the Coronado YMCA -- seated in beautiful chairs they'd constructed from scratch and painted in every shape and color imaginable after their introduction to the use of power tools. Such a proud collection of happy faces is rare, indeed.

There were proud parents (mostly moms), two of the NPS women equestriennes from Fort Mason who'd met with them during the session; several Sheroes who returned to be with them on this final day of the program; members of the City's Public Works Dept. who had been in on the project from the start; the director of YouthWorks, a city summer job's program into which many of the girls will transition for the rest of the summer; members of the Richmond Police Dept., YMCA staffers, some funders (including Chevron/Texaco and Wells Fargo Bank), and as many rangers as are in our management system. What a day! If grins were dollars we'd have made up the richest collection of wealth on the planet.

Our Rosie's Girls spent Thursday night aboard a submarine moored in the San Francisco harbor and were still excited! They wished for "just one more week." As for the adult leaders, immediate discussions were already initiated -- hints of plans for next year. Burned out? Hardly. Even Ms. Vanessa "Mom" Calloway," their intrepid program director, appeared ready for another round. The community came together to make this happen and is ready to roll up its sleeves to continue to develop its model.

As an aside, there were moments -- especially after being drawn in against my will to present as a shero last Thursday -- that I truly felt irrelevant and old. My age placed me so far beyond even the imaginations of these youngsters that I found it almost impossible to relate to them - at least not from that perspective. I was perfectly at ease as just another adult figure in the room; on human terms, which holds its own value. But when re-introduced to them as a "Shero" I stumbled and felt incoherent. The distance between was simply too great and the time line impossible to comprehend. I felt embarrassed standing before them . I could have been their great-grandmother, ferheavensake! Until that point, I'd been simply, "Miss Betty," a comfortable being in the room. We'd been together a number of times, but now I was setting myself apart -- or so it seemed. I'd become a "Shero," and it felt different somehow.

I know when my presence is relevant and contributes to events -- and when it does not. It's a feeling thing. Perception. Hard to explain without sounding self-deprecating. Yesterday I wanted to simply be in the room, uncelebrated, blending in -- and regretted being singled out in any way. Fortunately it was short-lived; a gesture of little consequence, after all. But it may have heralded a new phase in the aging process. Will I begin now to find myself in places where I've lost relevance, really? Was it because I have grandchildren in the middle school years and with whom my relationship is clearly-defined -- where their love and respect is unquestioned but -- are they impressed with Grandma's exploits? -- a little, maybe, but that's old stuff. My sons are far more taken with their park ranger mom and her derring-do. Maybe one generations is about as far back in time most of us can go before we lose focus.

Maybe that's it.

Photo: Victoria Jones, Vice-president of Clorox Corporation, who visited on Tuesday, August 13th.
Pamela Freund-Striplin, Violist for San Francisco Opera, Symphony, and Artistic Director for
the Gold Coast Chamber Music group of Lafayette, California.

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