Jeff Ackerman: Young families important to our community |

Jeff Ackerman: Young families important to our community

Some of you may have heard that my daughter Kelli decided to get married next May. To be clear, she didn’t decide on her own, rather she agreed to do so after being asked by her boyfriend Ryan Ellis. The cool part was that Ryan actually asked my blessing before popping the question. He came by the office, asked to speak with me and we walked outside, where he announced his intentions.

“That’s great!” I said. “Congratulations!” What else could I say? And why would I say it? They’re both adults and are more than smart enough to know what’s involved in a marriage. He’ll learn soon enough that the key to a great marriage is the ability to simply say, “You’re right.” I’m still working on that part of the arrangement.

Besides, Ryan’s a great young man from a wonderful family and he wants to teach. It runs in his family. His father was a teacher at Nevada Union High School for some three decades and his brother teaches there today. My daughter is in very good hands.

At the risk of sounding too melancholy… okay… you get melancholy at my age, which is why they have medication… I couldn’t help wondering what had happened to the last 23 years. I wrote a column for this page on Father’s Day, 1985, expressing joy that I was celebrating my very first Father’s Day with my then-baby daughter Kelli. I figured she’d be able to read some day (the odds were very good, given the quality schools here) and that she might enjoy a little letter from dad. I knew there would be miles and miles ahead of us and that, no matter what, I wanted her to know that I loved her. She made me cry when she was born (all three of my kids made me cry, which is why, as I indicated earlier, they invented medication). They all still make me cry, but for reasons not always related to joy.

Ryan and Kelli would like to stay in Nevada County, where they have lived most of their lives (Ryan was born here and Kelli came when she was 3 months old). They both graduated from local elementary, middle and high schools. They’ve both been working at local retail businesses while finishing up their college classes (Ryan graduated from San Diego State and then pursued his teaching credential programs). But this isn’t an easy place for a young couple to make it. Especially not in this kind of economic climate. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been harping on the need for economic diversity. An affluent retirement community, as some suggest we ought to be, has its advantages. But a community void of young families, popular playgrounds and healthy schools is a community without a soul, so far as I’m concerned. Especially when that community is already 95-percent-plus Caucasian. The only real diversity we seem to have left is in music and politics. We are nearly unanimous in our belief that gray can be a very handsome shade and that the Beatles were the best ever.

In a few years, things (even this economy) ought to sort themselves out. Millions of Baby Boomers will eventually retire (I say eventually because this economy is requiring us to work a LOT longer than we planned) and there won’t be enough young people to fill those jobs, at least not for a few years. That’s probably the best argument for immigration, legal and otherwise. Our economy needs it to survive because our birth rate alone will not sustain us. In fact, one economist suggested there’s money to be made selling 15-foot ladders on the border today, since they are building a 14-foot fence there. “Ladders for Sale: Only used once.” The economist reminded me that folks looking for a better life in the United States probably won’t get to the border and say, “Look. There’s a 14-foot wall! We’d better turn around and go home!”

Boom. They run smack into the Ackerman Ladder Co. All I need is a venture capitalist with a passport.

The key for Kelli, Ryan and others their age is to figure a way to survive up here in the difficult two or three years that lie ahead. It’s going to get tougher before it gets better and we’ll need to keep our children close as we get through this together. I’ll always have a place for them to stay and enough food for them to eat. They are, after all, our future and the reason most of us are sticking around. The tough part was the nurturing (Kelli’s mom did more of that than I did), and now is the time to enjoy the bloom, or fruits of our labor.

They say it takes an entire village to raise a child. These days it takes that same village to raise young adults, as well. We must find a way to do that because they, too, ought to share in this paradise we are fortunate to call home.

Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299,, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

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