Sooner or later. if you have any kind of social life at all here, somebody asks you how long you’ve been in Alameda. My answer is invariably the same –I came back in the fall of 2001. My answer has the virtue of consistency, if not accuracy. We did move here in September 2001, but I can’t say we came back because neither of us had ever lived here before. The person who had lived here before was my mother and the reason we came to Alameda in 2001 is because she was too ill to live alone anymore, and we needed a house where she could join us for as long as she had left.
After a house hunt that covered much of the East Bay, we found a much abused craftsman in Alameda on the edge of the Gold Coast and I called my mother to tell her the news. Skipping over the indignities the house had suffered through neglect and a 1970’s makeover, I described the neighborhood and location. There was a long pause on her end of the call, followed by the comment “that’s where the rich kids lived when I was in high school.” All I could think was that it had been a long time since rich anybody had lived in the house we were about to move into, but what I said was, “well Momma, better late than never.”
By old Alameda standards, my family’s history in town is a comparatively short one. My grandparents were immigrants from Scotland in the late 1920’s and my grandfather always said that they chose Alameda because of the weather; it was warm and sunny but you could trust in the fog to keep things from getting too hot. For my grandparents, Alameda delivered on their dreams as immigrants achieving things that would have been impossible for them had they stayed in “the old country.” They bought a home where they raised two children who graduated from Alameda High and went on earn college degrees. They took their civic responsibilities seriously, becoming U. S. citizens at the earliest opportunity. They grew roses and fruit trees in their garden and sometimes talked about their childhood when eating an orange was a once a year Christmas treat.
For my mother Alameda meant the lifelong friends that she made while growing up here, most of whom have stayed pretty close to Alameda throughout their lives. When she moved back they quickly reestablished those old connections and were a terrific support network – calling and visiting to reminisce about the past and gossip about the present. At her memorial service in 2005 we displayed a picture of “the girls” taken the summer they were Girl Scout counselors at Camp Cedar Brook together. There were eight girls in the photo and the only one missing at the memorial service was my mother.
For me Alameda is the place that helped us take care of my mother when she needed us. It’s the place we’re raising our son. It’s the place where my husband and I are investing our time and talents in public service to the community – and teaching our son by that example about civic responsibility and participation. It’s not the same town my mother grew up in, but she recognized it when she came back and she thought that many things had changed for the better. Alameda is also where my family of three is forming the friendships that will carry us through the rest of our lives, and I expect it’s a place my son will come back to when it’s his time to settle down as well.
Jordan Battani is currently president of the Alameda Hospital Board. When she is not pondering weighty Alameda Hospital type issues, she enjoys gardening and has a thematically appropriate haiku for every occasion.