Erika and her 3-year-old son are undertaking a unique journey — uprooting their old lives and journeying across America, staying at a church at each stopping point along the way.
Her amazing story is inspirational, complex and moving — be prepared to be inspired.
Meet Erika and her little boy, who are getting ready to travel across the United States in order to begin a new life — and learn how she’ll be documenting every step of the way as they visit churches along the way.
SK: Erika, give us a bit of background — where did you grow up?
Erika: I was born in New Martinsville, West Virginia, but moved to Chicago in infancy. My fondest childhood memories are of those years in Chicago. I was so confident and secure. I was at my mother’s side, day and night. We lived three blocks from Wrigley Field. My mother knew someone who knew someone who worked the gate. With a jug of Kool-Aid and some sandwiches we took our seats at every home game. We never missed. I had the biggest crush on Joe Pepitone. I met him once! He touched my hair and said, “Hey, beautiful.” I was only 4, but I nearly collapsed.
I used to dream I would marry Joe Pepitone when I was 18. I had a fantasy in which I would be walking toward him, 18 and finally able to marry, and he would be hobbling towards me with a long white beard and cane. I was always kind of unusual.
These early childhood experiences are important. We had peace and togetherness in my family. I had a voice; I felt important. I’ve always been grateful for the foundation provided by those years. My relationship to humankind was formed during that time. It is the seat of my love and compassion for others.
SK: What was your family and your home environment like?
Erika: My immediate family was small. My mother, a Mexican woman, raised my sister and me by herself. I have a deep respect and admiration for my mother. She had polio when she was a baby, and endured terrible ridicule and abuse. She was capable, tough and gifted. She never appreciated herself. She was so polluted with the negativity instilled in her as a child that she could never see her amazing talents or beauty. I did, though. Her loved shaped me. I am grateful for it.
SK: Where do you think you got your strong foundation for attachment parenting from?
Erika: My mother. She was not perfect, mind you. At a certain point, things became difficult between us and were never really the same, again; but thanks to the early feelings of love, gentleness and stability she provided, I grew to value love and loving in a way I wouldn’t have without her tender care. I owe nothing less to my own son. I’ve tried to read and learn about gentle parenting methods so that I can preserve as much as his tender beauty as I can. It’s hard. We are built of our past. The biggest parenting job is reshaping ourselves, not our children.