I have always been a fierce human being. Even as a child, I was never afraid of anything. My mother said I came out of the womb ready to take on the world. My imagination would take me to many worlds when I thought about the people who atavistically made me; that is, my ancestors beyond the grandparents and great-grandparents I knew growing up. I knew that on my mother’s side, there was a plethora of strong pioneer women; on my father’s side, his Pechanga Indian grandmother married a French man, and from there they left a legacy of vineyards in the Riverside town of Temecula. One of my greatest regrets is that I didn’t interview my maternal grandmother about her life in detail before she passed over 10 years ago. I simply picked up bits and pieces of her incredible life through conversations as I grew. I am so thankful for the copious notes she left for me to find family on Ancestry sites. My father died young. Unfortunately, the closeness I yearned for would never come to pass as I imagined it would in my later years. Again, his mother, my paternal grandmother, left boxes of stories and letters from which I have pieced together her incredibly colorful life. From her, I inherited my penchant for writing.
The one thing I do know about my heritage: I came by my independence, ergo confidence, naturally. On both sides of my family tree, my ancestors were immigrants, pioneers, and native Americans who worked hard to make their way in America. In short, they were, and are, survivors.
My mother is the oldest of fifteen children. Her father, a Spaniard, had three children with her mother, then they divorced. He remarried and had twelve more children. Within the past two years, we have connected with a few of her half-siblings (many passed on early or live far away). My life has been enriched immensely to have my aunts and uncles back in my life. They will be sacred ties when my mother passes because most are my age or younger; and, their loving spirits are akin to the limitless love my mother gave to us.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs reached out to my brother and me within the past few years. We are heirs to Indian land that our paternal great-grandmother owned. There are sixteen direct descendants in line to share the proceeds should the Pechanga tribe wish to buy our parcels. I am thrilled to have a federal Indian number. I have already begun a young adult novel about the life of an adolescent Pechanga girl who changes the rules for Indian women in the 1880’s.
It is no accident that I was born to run through life with wild abandon, drinking up the waters of wisdom passed down to me from a lineage rife with people who lived their dreams off of the sweat of their own brows. I have always felt that I was more than what my parents and grandparents contributed to my genetic make-up. I heard the whispers of ancestors in my night dreams as a child and they are speaking to me louder than ever as I age. I know they won’t stop until I write the stories.