Ho, ho ho, hummmmm. The avalanche of holidays is wrapping up, and winter is in full regalia just ready to dance. It is also time for some Native parents to send our precious children (even though they are young adults really), out into the world and back to college. Khalil Gibran said something about our children being living arrows that we shoot from the bow of parenthood into the mystical bosom of moral something or other, but I paraphrase. I now understand a little better what the author of the short tome “The Prophet” meant when he wrote those lines.
My son is going back to finish up his second year of school. I will certainly miss him, and be a little mopey the next few days but I really appreciate the month we did have together. We cooked our favorite meals together, saw “Star Wars” on a movie screen 3 stories tall, shared our favorite new music finds and had talks that were reminiscent of those we had when he was younger and some that were a preview of ones we will have more of as he continues to mature. It was nice for my wife and I to have him home to complete our nuclear family of three. It is hard to accept but after 20 years come March these times together will become fewer and fewer.
I am Karuk and in my small tribe from the Klamath and Salmon rivers in far Northern California. Children sleep in the family house with the women and when the boys are turning into young men they move to sleep in the men’s sweathouse. From my perspective we have the men teach boys how to be Karuk adults and the women have the role of teaching the boys how to be good human beings.
My son is growing into adulthood. Seems just like yesterday that my brother, wife and myself found ourselves too late for the hospital and all three of us taking a role in an unexpected home delivery. Woefully, the time between that birth morning at 8:24 AM until the very instant I write this has gone by all to quick. It was the moments between those two time related bookends that are full of remembrances of a growing boy and his family, mostly good or great memories with the occasional bump along the road.
Karuk people, like most Tribes, are very family oriented. We take care of our Elders and have so many cousins it is hard to count them all (I am in one FB group of Karuk Cousins that currently has 60 members). Our progeny are precious commodities to be swaddled in our famous baby baskets, nurtured, given basic education and then released into the world. It is like a hawk teaching a fledgling to fly.
As a parent you can only do your best to raise your child in such a manner that they grow into mature, responsible and kind people. You hope that along their path to adulthood they have absorbed some of the lessons that you, your extended family and your cultural traditions have presented them with along the way. Many Tribes believe in the notion of the seven generations. For the Tribes in NW California this is translated to the three generations behind you, your generation and the three yet to come. This philosophy shows that you are part of a continuum and have an important role in transcending the past and helping shape the future. This is exactly the role of a parent. It is your job to make it a better world for your descendants based upon the culture, wisdom and customs that come from your past.
I so value the time I have had and to be blessed for being a part of our family of three. I too must realize that our lives will naturally start to grow apart from one another as my son begins to start his own family and works to make it a better world for his future descendants. It is somewhat of a cliché, but one grounded in truth, that the time from his birth until now have gone by like the brilliant flash of lightening that lights up the night before it just as quickly fades away. There seems like there is so much we were not able to do together or say to each other but I delight to have been a part of his maturation and I am so proud of the adult he is becoming.
I look forward to sharing time with the man he is growing to be so he can begin to teach me lessons of his own. These days I often tell new parents to relish every moment, the good, the bad and the ugly for they are memories to be cherished.
Andre Cramblit is a Karuk Tribal Member from the Klamath and Salmon rivers in northwest California and the Operations Director of the Northern California Indian Development Council. He lives with his wife Wendy and son Kyle in Arcata, California.