Where it all began. I was born Justin Melson on November 21, 1988, at John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek, California. I have always been proud of where I come from, and my initials, JAM, which would become so important later on in life with emails and nicknames 🙂 But we’ll talk about that later. My mother and I had a rough go of it the first few months after I was born. In and out of the hospital, trying with all of our might to fight off meningitis. Apparently I had given it to my mother in the womb (you’re welcome), and we were not doing well, especially her.
Now I don’t remember much, if anything at all, from this time in my life. I mean I was a few months old, so I can’t blame me for this. But what I do remember is from what my mother has told me over the years.
What was supposed to be one of the happiest moments of anyone’s life, was anything but. It was scary times, I’m sure. Thankfully we were under the care of a wonderful doctor, Dr. Kong, who was an even better man. My mother tells me the story of how he left his own wedding night to come care for us both in the hospital. What a gem! Although I’m not so sure his wife thought so that day. He ended up being my pediatrician until I was 18, and even then it was difficult to leave his care (I think I saw him until I was 19, don’t tell).
By the grace of whoever you look up to, my mother and I both made it, healthy and ready to experience life. Me for the first time, and for my mother, a continuation of the life she had built. If I am ever too down on myself, I remind myself of this time. Not because I am religious, I’m actually more spiritual in nature (although there were periods of my life that Catholicism tried to creep in… hello CYO basketball and high school). But I believe with all of my heart that my mother and I survived for a reason. A purpose. It was not our time to go, and reminding myself of this brings me feelings of peace, joy, and happiness. OK back to the story.
When we left the hospital, we moved into our home….my first, in Pittsburgh, California. A youthful city about 20 minutes east of San Francisco. I don’t remember much from this house, only that we were there for a few short months.
My family and I moved from Pittsburgh to San Ramon, where we would stay until I eventually left for college many years later. A quaint suburb in what’s known to locals as the East Bay. It was about 20 minutes further east, and growing. Tucked along the I-680 corridor, in a line with the other dozen or so cities that make up the entirety of the East Bay. All with about the same population, but with very different incomes. Our house sat at the end of a cul-de-sac, Firethorn Court. And you wouldn’t miss it. That damn bright pink house. I’m not kidding. It was pink. Nowadays I would welcome the pink, but gosh how I despised that color growing up. But we’ll save that for another chapter.
On that cul-de-sac sat about 10 homes, all beautifully manicured and well-kept. I imagine it’s what the builders pictured the American Dream to look like when they were constructing the neighborhood. All the houses were about the same size and for the most part, same floor plan. 3 beds, 2 and a half bath, 2000-2500 square feet. A small but usable backyard, especially for a new born and child. Eventually I would outgrow that backyard, but I just turned the front yard and city into my playground, so no love lost there.
One story I remember particularly well from this time in my life was one from the day care I would go to, just up the street from our house. It was called Acorn Learning Center, and my two instructors were Cindy and Mary. Bless those two women. When my wife and I moved back to California in 2020, I took my wife to that childhood home on Firethorn Court. And of course, I drove back to that daycare to see if it was still there. And to my surprise, it was! Same building, same name. NOTHING had changed, which made me smile.
As you can see from the pictures above and below, I was a rather, let’s say….robust child. Much bigger than the other kids at my age, which would be advantageous during youth sports. And with this size and unknown strength, I earned a certain nickname at Acorn. Any guesses? I’ll give you a hint…. it rhymes with Justin. I had been blessed with the nickname, Bustin’ Justin, from Cindy and Mary, and I will say, it was damn well-earned.
Now again, my memories from this time in my life are spotty at best. But from my mother’s tales, I was apparently not nice to the toys there. Now whether it was with my own volition or just my unknown brute strength at the time, the toys did not stand a chance against the wrath that was Bustin’ Justin. Fortunately, I grew out of this phase, I think…. but blessings to those two wonderful women for putting up with it. I guess it was their job, but I do owe a portion of who I became to those two women. And to that place that still sits just up the street from the house on Firethorn Court, the Acorn Learning Center.
Want to hear more of the story, check out the next chapter, here.