“Are we gonna take this tree with us to the new Sunflower house, Susan?”
A three-year-old in our Seedlings program puts his finger on a tall Florida live oak as he waits for my reply.
“Nope, this tree has roots in the ground right here. I remember when it was just a baby tree 10 years ago when this new building was built. I can’t believe how tall and shady it’s grown with it’s beautiful big branches. No, this tree will not go with us.”
We all give that tree’s familiar bumpy trunk a thank you hug. Seedlings are generous tree huggers.
The next half hour is spent with a very serious crew of three- to six-year-olds, pointing and talking about all the things we will take and which things we will leave behind when Sunflower moves to our new home in Delray this fall.
The reality is, like many other former Seedlings, their young childhood memories will always be associated with this particular place. They’ll remember the freedom, the colors, the smells, tastes, dirt, water, paint, first friends, their teachers and the other parents who looked out for them. Even as they grow up and head off to college, I will always remember them playing and asking questions just as they are now.
All those very specific memories will stay here.
My own 22 year journey of growing and evolving with and through Sunflower has its roots here in our first home. It’s just starting to sink in, that like my graduating Seedlings heading off to kindergarten in August, I too am leaving everything comfortable and known behind for a home of our own in a cozy Delray Beach neighborhood close by the ocean.
Everything about Sunflower –the playgrounds, the gardens, the music, art, science, the children, parents, teachers and staff– always grows and changes each year to meet the needs of each group of children. We know, love and expect all the little changes. But to move is much bigger and begs for reflection and an attempt to understand how we got to this point, what we will leave behind, and what comes with us.
How did we get here?
We needed a dream, a clear mission and vision, and a fearless devotion to meeting the needs of children and families.
We needed years of hands-on learning through triumphs, failures and everything in between.
We needed the synergy of our current, brilliant staff of women. Their power, passion, intelligence and humor tackled the growing pains and challenges of our emerging nonprofit with tenacity and grace.
We needed a terrific Board of Directors led by the most dedicated president on the planet, an Advisory Board of community experts, our first volunteer coordinator and hundreds of fantastic volunteers!
The dream of owning a home for Sunflower would never have been possible without the generosity of both time and funds offered from families and individuals who have steadfastly believed in us from the very earliest years. My most sincere thanks and appreciation to everyone who has held me up, and held on tight, throughout this journey.
We leave with much gratitude to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton, for their support and for patiently and generously sharing their home with us for 22 years.
What comes with us?
Almost every single thing that the children play with, dress up in, ride on, dig with and touch now, will be a part of our new home. Our old things mixed with the new will feel very familiar to any former Seedling.
I personally will take along the memory, silliness, paint, dirt and puddle splashes of every single child and family that has been part of our Sunflower community.
The smiles and laughter of each Sunflower mom and dad who has died over these years will also be with me.
Finally, we will bring along the history of our community. The celebrations, the joy, the intense struggles and problem solving, the staunch supporters and endless questioners. Each have contributed to who we are and will continue to influence what we will become.
Yes, for the first time I think I can truly empathize with the graduating Seedlings. I’m starting to feel that weird, tingly mix of excitement, fear, wonder and the anticipation of bravely stepping into a brand new world. It feels good!
Our roots have been here solidly for close to a quarter of a century. Unlike the live oak, we will carefully pull up those roots and transplant them. A new, freshly-prepared and richly-fertilized home of our own will welcome us in August with room to stretch, reach out, sing at the top of our lungs– and grow!
Post by Susan Caruso
Photo by Meade Peers McCoy