The dreams of Tracy, the mother and teacher.

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I knew I wanted that beach dreamer, sooner rather than later.

I went to the most touristy damn beach in all of Santa Cruz County because, when on vacation, the lines of normal and abnormal are all blurred. It’s easier to open up when you’re on vacation.

She was sitting on a blanket, wearing t-shirt and shorts, her shoes toeing the sand. I just walked up and sat down on her blanket. Bold as brass, it just seemed right.

“Hi, I’m really sorry to bother you. But if I could just talk to you for a minute, I’d really appreciate it. My name’s Lerner, I’m working on a project where I’m talking to strangers about their hopes and dreams,” and I gave her my business card. “Do you mind if I ask you some questions for about fifteen minutes or so? I promise I won’t hijack your whole day.”

She looked at me like I was a little nuts; then I realized she was looking through me, past me. Her kids were in the water. I turned to face the same way she was watching–because staring out into the waves, watching her babies, seemed like a good place to start.

“How are your dreams different now than before you had babies?”

“Different?! I didn’t have any hopes or dreams at all before my kids. None.” Well. Now there’s a starting point.

Tracy’s 36, mother of two, married twelve years, part-time substitute teacher. Full-time awesome.

“I just want everything good for them. I know that’s not possible, so I hope and dream that I can get anywhere close to that. I just don’t want to fail them, you know?” I do know. I so know.

We talked about that for a while, and I promised her that I had to believe that just wanting that in the first place, meant that she hadn’t failed them; that she couldn’t fail them.

Tracy had her own rough start and just wants better for her babies. “I just want them to have better than I did. And then if they have kids, I want those kids to have better than mine had. I like to think that if we keep goin’ like that, somewhere down the line some generation will have it damn near perfect.” Quick, someone call the Nobel Peace Prize people. Someone call the world leaders. Spread the Gospel of Tracy.

She wants her kids to wait until they’re “fully settled within themselves” to get married. She fidgeted with her hands, picked at her cuticles. We didn’t talk about Tracy’s marriage—I saw her choices from her twenties sitting in the lines around her eyes.

Tracy wants better for her babies, and she wants them to wait until they’re older to pick a partner. Got it. I didn’t push any further on that spot, it didn’t feel right.

I asked her about her students. She dreams of a day when the education system can be healed; when learning will begin at home and continue there; when teachers will be valued; when knowledge will be available to everyone, equally. The Gospel of Tracy.

She moved here from the Midwest when she was 22, after college. She just wanted out and figured she’d get a better teaching job here than back home. California… still the land of the gold rush of hopes and dreams.

Eighteen minutes. I spent eighteen minutes with Tracy and I have never hugged anyone so hard in my life as I did that woman when I said goodbye. The world throws what it wants at Tracy, and she says, “Bring it.”

I’m sure it won’t be the last time I head to the waterfront to catch someone relaxed, off-guard and willing to talk, but Tracy will always be a stand-out memory for me.

I love her. I truly, deeply love her with all of me.

Tracy, toeing the sand...