MTS Voices: To Learn. To Live. To Love.

MTS Voices

Highlighting the diversity of experiences that make up our community.

MTS parent, Christina H. Scott, shares reflections on her experience growing up and living in a multi-generational family home in Tiburon and the meaning of "home."


To Learn. To Live. To Love. 

It is mid-afternoon and a sunny day after school.

I skip down the long and winding set of garden stairs leading down to our multi-generational family home, simply yet modernly crafted by my parents in the early 1970s around gorgeously rugged Northern Californian Oaks. I am filled with excitement to share my spelling results with my maternal grandmother, who came from Bulgaria in her seventies to help my professionally working parents raise my sister, and then me – first-generation Americans – and to tend to our home life in Tiburon. “Babby,” (derived from my sister Milla’s babyhood mix of Bulgarian “Baba” and English “Mommy”) spoke her native language often with us, but preferred English (except to convey swift disapprovals, particularly in public). So clearly recognizing the power of adaptability, she was invested in our education, interested in what we were learning, and how.

She had survived Revolutions, World Wars, and many conflicts of Eastern Europe, was fortunate with educational privileges but also had sustained trials in turbulent times. It was her daily practice to travel through history, literature and philosophy books and to learn from others. Remarkably, she found herself in the United States to start another life, so very far removed from her experiences in her native land. She must have wanted to be able to translate her curiosities and joys of conversation with the dignity she had earned. How clever she was to have appointed innocent me, young and in elementary school, her English Teacher!

Three quarters of the way down the stairs, I see her in the kitchen, exactly as I expect, subdued in light warm tones, and gracefully perched on her wooden stool. Sprinkled sunlight dances all around her as she thoughtfully prepares our family dinner. The front door is open in anticipation of my arrival and the kitchen windows are foggy from the steam of her slow-cooking Bulgarian dishes. She sees my smile as I skip, determines that I am proud of my test and hugs me with congratulatory Bravos. It is unconditional, warm, filled with joy and pride. This simple moment would reflect back to me much later to remind me of the deeper meanings and potential of our connected intergenerational roots, and what “home” really is about. Babby knew the essential values in life: To Learn. To Live. To Love.

Fast forward three decades.

When I started my own family, our home evolved with our dynamic conditions. I had become a full-time stepmother and a mother of twins in the space of thirteen months and our full dynamic life did not fit in a predefined box. In fact, over the years, we’ve modeled several households out of family and extended family circumstances: Instantly Blended, Multi-Generational with elders, Multi-Homed while Living Apart Together, and more recently Mixed with extended family in our Multi-Generational family home, the one in which my grandmother helped to raise me. It is all “home,” and what I’ve discovered is that home is something that grows on the inside. We examine the family trees – their sturdy, brilliant and glorified limbs, their broken, hidden and missing limbs. We tend to the varied trials and triumphs and toggle between perspectives in the “in between” position to find the possibilities. For me, it was a messy and marvelous experience of uncovering. While we lived interdependently, what we really were all developing was our inner-dependence.

I watch my father in his mid-80s casually and contently sitting on the floor, his afternoon cup of English tea on the nearby side table, patiently helping to put one-thousand puzzle pieces together with our young children, Alice and Eloise. As I wrap up my busy workday from home, I can hear my mother sharing her various stories in the garden as she waters the plants, while the girls run around her under the Oaks. I hear my stepdaughter Grace, laughing with my sister and my niece as they pass each other on the winding garden stairs. My nephew happily riffs on his electric guitar on the floor below. I hear all the cousins goofing off together somewhere in and around the house, doing the fun and funny things they seem to do spontaneously together.

There is light everywhere. This is “home.”

It’s me now in that kitchen, preparing a wholesome loving meal for all the many members of my family. It feels interconnected and suddenly meant-to-be when I look up and out that kitchen window, steamed by the warming stovetop to find the evening sunlight warmly twinkling and dancing through those trees. My grandmother is once again with me. I smile knowingly to myself, grateful for this life in this magical mundane moment and exhale a relieving “Thank You” for all that we’ve grown through. We all had to do this for each other, for ourselves, find our ways here, and forward. We adapted and progressed; it served us well. The parts help the whole, the own whole helps the parts, communing together, extending inward and outward, exchanging all the time. And now that we’ve learned, life seems to want to move us onward.

Extended in view beyond the living room deck, Angel Island is magically golden with the late low receding light upon it, and I see Peter navigating across Raccoon Strait making his way home by boat, to me, to us, to all of us together. Aren’t the circuitous patterns of living and life a little funny? We’ve been called to reflect and learn, again, from the other point of view. That is exactly where our next home adventure begins. Who knew it would be the five of us, invited to live on the beautiful island that we’ve all been staring at this whole time, where Alice and Eloise – budding environmental advocates - have often fantasized about, and where Peter’s ancestors once lived and loved generations ago? Here is our opportunity to throw our anchor over to explore in our interwoven interconnected stories and to expand on these essential values, again: To Learn. To Live. To Love. Together.

Christina H. Scott
February 2021



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