Atascadero News photo courtesy of Deb Sherburne • One of the most trying times of Deb Sherburne’s motherhood is represented in this photo, taken inside Torrance Memorial Hospital. Renée, left, had been kicked in the face by a boy wearing baseball cleats on a swing. She received more than 40 stitches, fully half of them on her eyelid. Chris, center, had been stung by a bee. The sting caused a major, life-threatening infection which required intravenous antibiotics. Creig P. had just been discharged after surgery to remove a two-inch splinter from his hand about two days previously. Not pictured is Deb’s mom, who was upstairs with a blood clot. · Deb Sherburne
Author’s note: Thanks to my Y chromosome, I am a week late celebrating Mother’s Day. But I hope we can all celebrate it together, in style, here and now.
Everybody’s life is a story full of stories. My mom’s life is no exception. There’s the story of her adolescence, of her courtship with my dad, of her time as a preschool teacher and as a police dispatcher.
She has stories of bike trips, camping trips, good and bad relationships with coworkers. There’s the story of when she began using the F-word regularly (that’s thanks to APD — seriously, guys, thanks, she’s a better person for it).
But to celebrate Mother’s Day, I will tell some of my mom’s stories of motherhood. Every family has similar stories, so I hope to celebrate all Atascadero mothers by celebrating one specific mother: mine.
I won’t use this article to argue my case for the time she taught me the “pull my finger” joke when I was 7, which she denies doing to this day.
So to all you North County mothers, if your kids love you even half as much as my mom’s kids love her, then you’re doing pretty OK.
[End Author's note.]
Deb Sherburne got married to Creig Charles Sherburne on Jan. 3, 1976. Creig Charles said he married her, in part, because he intuited that she would be a good mother. He also said she was impatient to have children, but grudgingly agreed to wait until he was done earning his degree in industrial arts from Cal State Long Beach.
Deb’s motherhood started on May 7, 1980, when Atascadero News reporter Creig P. Sherburne was born.
Over the years, the pair said that Shawn was a name in the running. So was Ian. But in a fit of creativity, they named their first son Creig, after his dad. It was a decision they came to regret, and still regret to this day, thanks to inept doctor’s offices calling the wrong Creig Sherburne to confirm vasectomy appointments.
“[Creig was] my fastest childbirth,” Deb said. “Six hours from beginning to end. All the others were 12 hours of serious labor. It was the last time [he] was nice to anyone.”
One of Deb’s favorite stories about her first son and his attachment to words came when Creig P. was two years old.
“Creig P. pulled the head off a He-Man toy and went to his dad in the bathtub and said, ‘Dad, my guy got decapitated,’” Deb said. “We thought it was cute. Another favorite word of [Creig P.’s] was ‘calamine.’”
Deb’s second child was born on Jan. 16, 1982. She was almost named Julia Grace Sherburne — say that out loud, it’s gorgeous — but failing in the naming department for a second time, they instead decided on Renée Marie Sherburne.
When she was in second grade, Deb said, Renée got in trouble with the PTA ladies for reading books at a magnet school in Lomita.
“Those women were witches,” Deb said, still incensed more than 20 years later. “At lunch, they’d make the kids be quiet. They couldn’t talk or read, just sit there frozen till they were excused.”
And so, Deb said, Renée sewed a surreptitious paperback-sized pocket that went inside her jacket. It allowed her to smuggle her book to the lunch tables for some “sneak-reading.”
Renée never stopped sewing. Deb said one of the things she is most proud of Renée for sewing was the wedding dress her sister-in-law, Rebecca, wore when she married Deb’s youngest child, Chris.
Christopher John — another contender for most creative name — was born on Jan. 20, 1985 — Super Bowl Sunday. Creig P. was four years old then, and Deb said all he wanted was a brother. So when Chris was born and dad Creig phoned home, it was Creig P. who took the call. Everybody knew it was a boy when little “Creigie” threw a fist in the air and shouted, “yes!”
“Chris was a delight,” Deb said. “He was fearless. When he was still in diapers, he climbed up a rocket ship at the park. It had a slide on the second story. I looked up and there he was hanging from the slide.”
Chris didn’t get hurt in that event, but it clearly illustrates his attitude growing up. He also rode his first two-wheeled bike a few weeks after his third birthday.
“He would race till he would drop and fall asleep,” Deb said, laughing.
Today, all three of Deb’s kids are grown. Creig and Renée are raising children of their own, and Chris is pursuing a degree in biology.
She said raising her kids was never boring.
“You were all pre-school drop-outs,” she said. “Just so you know.”
And the story she said best illustrates their different personalities has to do with a fire on the 110 freeway. She’d taken the three kids to the Los Angeles Zoo in the late ‘80s, the day of an earthquake. Renée and Chris were still in car seats. On the way home, the aging Volkswagen van kept losing power and going slower until Deb had to pull it on to the shoulder, out of traffic. Smoke was billowing from the vents and flames licked out of the engine compartment.
“I knew because I watched a lot of TV that a fire in a car means an explosion,” Deb said. “I just got the kids out and left everything else in the van.”
And so the small family sat huddled on the side of the freeway. A passerby finally offered a ride.
“He was a creep,” Deb said. “I told him to call my husband at work.”
“This guy called and he said, ‘do you know where your family is?’” the elder Creig said with a shudder.
The van ended up engulfed in flames and all eight lanes of the 110 closed while firefighters fought the blaze in the middle of rush hour in the middle of Watts.
“Chris just kept shouting, ‘fireworks, fireworks;’ Creig P. screamed and cried and would not shut up, but then he was all ‘OK, on to the next thing,’” Deb said. “Renée went silent, but slept in our bed till she was like 17.”
That’s pretty in character for Renée. Deb said she had to join the PTA and volunteer at the school so Renée would let go of her leg and go to class at all.
And each of Deb’s children have a quintessential story about her.
“I was like 14 and got a haircut at my mom’s Asian nail place,” Creig P. said. “They didn’t have a lot of English. When the lady was done cutting my hair, she asked if I wanted it hair sprayed or blow-dried. I was all heavy metal and never put junk in my hair, I just let it dry. So I said blow dry. She styled it into a pompadour.”
“He was just horrified,” Deb said between gales of uncontrollable laughter. “That was funnier than hell just because of who it was.”
“On the drive home, she kept singing ‘you ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog’ at me,” Creig P. said. “I asked her why she was mocking me. She said, ‘because you’re remockable.’”
Renée told a story about a doomed vacation to Hawaii. The rental off-road car broke and Renée and her husband, parents-in-law and brand-new baby had to hike almost eight miles over volcanic rock to get to shelter. They had no food or water and barely adequate shoes.
After a miserable night’s sleep in a small dump, Renée put on her mother-in-law’s sandals.
“I looked down at my feet and it was like I was looking at mom’s feet,” Renée said. “It was comforting for some reason.”
Chris’ memories of a developing a real relationship with his mother involve driving.
“Back when her carpal tunnel was hurting her, she used to drive me around as moms are wont to do,” Chris said. “Her right wrist was the one that hurt, and the car was a stick shift.”
So Deb would drive the car and operate the clutch, but Chris would work the gear shifter. He was about 10 at the time.
“When she first started to do it, she would tell me what to do, shift up, shift down, whatever,” Chris said. “After a while, it just got to the point she didn’t have to tell me to shift. She would just push the clutch and I would shift into the appropriate gear.”
Deb said that Renée was a calm child between two crazy book-ends.
“If I’d only had Creig P., I’d have thought I was a failure as a parent,” Deb said. “But if I’d only had Renée, I’d have written books about parenting and had no sympathy for anyone. Chris was a wild-card. … I’m so glad I had all of them.”