We all have our stories. I would like to tell you about Reuven’s early years. 1965. Haight-Ashbury. I was a hippie. I had no money. I left the hospital and lived with Reuven from floor to floor, house to house as friends tried to help out. “Groovy,” was the word on the street but in reality it was hard being a single parent, and I struggled to get back on my feet. Soon I had to acknowledge that I simply couldn’t manage alone. I made the difficult decision to send Reuven to live with some friends and others who could care for him better than I was able to at the time. Somehow, with luck and hard work, I managed to keep custody, and did everything I could to help, but he moved from home to home for five years. I took him on weekends. His first memories are in a carrier on my back at gatherings in the park, protesting the Vietnam War and inequities of society.
He came to live with me full-time when he was five and we moved to Bellingham. At school he was sometimes embarrassed because I wore my steel-toe work boots and leathers to parent-teacher conferences as I came directly from the Shipyard, where I was the only woman welder among more than 200 men. Reuven came to union meetings with me at night (I was secretary of Boilermakers #104- Bellingham). He listened to women talk of equality in our living room, of the right to work in non-traditional trades, ERA, abortion rights – I was president of the local chapter of NOW. I wasn’t the kind of mother that had the energy at the end of the day to read traditional bedtime stories – so we read about Gandhi, about peace, about RFK and MLK.
Still, we struggled for many years on and off of public assistance, but we always found a way. Reuven helped out by mowing lawns and starting other businesses. Reuven’s first act of protest came in 6th grade when he rebelled against the teacher’s policy of asking the kids on public assistance to walk to the front of the room each day to get their free lunch tickets. At 13, he threatened the newspaper to form a paper boy union because of unfair policies against the kids—and they fixed the problem fast. At 15, because of his hard work and wonderful personality, he won the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C. to serve as a congressional page for Sen. Warren Magnuson. The experience unleashed his idealism about government. He always attracted caring and loving adults to serve as mentors and I worked hard to support those guiding relationships. It’s what helped him survive and thrive. He always loved to learn. He paid for college himself and flew through one of the most prestigious master’s degree programs at Harvard. He understands the real issues of our complex world, believe, me, from the ground up.
Reuven carries this journey with him everyday. It’s in his being. It makes him a wonderful person as a son, husband and father. It will make him a tremendous legislator. I just wanted to share Reuven’s real story with you and to let you know personally why I’m so proud of my son.