Photo: Joshua Huston
Last Christmas, Anthony Battiste and his four sons — Chris 9, Anthony, 5, Abraham, 4, and Alvin, 2 — spent the holiday in a homeless shelter. After he and his wife separated and she moved to California, Battiste was left with one income and too many expenses. Though he tried to make ends meet with his earnings as a roofer, after a couple of months the family was evicted from their rental in Tacoma.
There were many times when Battiste had to choose between providing food for the children and paying for a hotel room. Despite his best efforts, the family sometimes had no choice but to sleep in their vehicle.
“It was trying, but at the same time it was binding,” says Battiste. “It presented an opportunity for me and the boys to become a strong cadre, leaning and depending on each other to get through the hard times.”
Photo: Joshua Huston
When Tripat Singh and Jasmine Marwaha were growing up together in North Seattle in the early 1980s, there were only about 20 other Sikh families in the area and a single gurdwara (place of worship). They fell in love while Jasmine was studying law at Harvard and married soon after. The Central District couple are now raising their 4-year-old son, Kabir Singh, and 4-month-old daughter, Sahiba Kaur, in a large, dynamic Sikh community.
Sikhism was born in the Punjab region of northern India during an era of extreme class inequality. “The turban used to be worn only by kings and royalty,” says Singh, a clinical practitioner of Eastern medicine. “Sikhs started wearing it as a way of giving the finger to the government. The circumstances you are born into aren’t what you have to be relegated to for the rest of your life.”
Photo: Joshua Huston
A day in the life of Seward Park children’s musician Eli Rosenblatt sounds downright idyllic. After a morning spent in his garden with a famous florist (his wife, Kelly Sullivan) and lively 3-year-old (his son, Elian), Rosenblatt takes a stroll through his neighborhood to teach music and movement at three local preschools. Though some might find engaging a room full of 4-year-olds exhausting, for Rosenblatt it’s nirvana.
“There are moments when you can feel so much love in the room,” he says. “Just seeing the parents seeing their children and the children seeing their parents. It’s really special. It feels really joyful.”
Whether baking family recipes, crafting decorations, or dressing up as dinosaurs, these local families know how to put the happy into the holidays. From an “A-Team”-inspired celebration to a Sikh musical tradition to a recently homeless family making merry in a new home, the holiday season in Seattle is as multifarious as it is memorable.
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Aleksa Manila. Photo: Joshua Huston
Once upon a time at the Seattle Children’s Festival, drag queen Aleksa Manila read books to children. Perched regally atop a cozy nest of blankets and wrapped in a glamorous fuchsia kimono, Manila inspired awe in each child who toddled into the room. Coco, age 4, was moonstruck by Manila’s hot-pink hair adorned with magenta flowers.
“Are those flowers real?” said Coco skeptically.
“Fake,” whispered Manila, with a heavy-lashed wink and a smile. “Now who wants to pick our first story?” A field of tiny hands sprouted up and story time began with a reading of Manila’s favorite children’s book, “My Princess Boy.”
Written by Seattle author Cheryl Kilodavis to help explain her son Dyson’s fondness for “pretty things” to teachers and classmates, the book inspired a movement of acceptance for children who feel misunderstood. “I love my Princess Boy. When we go shopping, he is the happiest when looking at girls’ clothes. But when he says he wants to buy a pink bag or a sparkly dress, people stare at him,” Kilodavis writes.
“The Princess Boy’s story is very close to my own story,” says Manila, who began to question her gender identity while attending Catholic elementary school in the Philippines. “I remember being in the boys section and staring at the girls section, wondering, ‘Should I be there?’”
For the past five years, Manila has hosted Drag Queen Story Hour for families all over Seattle. Check the website for upcoming events and appearances.
Photo: Ian Couch
When Annie Yu leaves for work in the morning, she takes her briefcase, her keys … and her baby.
Yu is an attorney in the state Attorney General’s Office, where the Infant at Work Program was introduced this year. Approved employees are allowed to bring in babies, from 6 weeks to 6 months, for the full workday.
While Yu works, her 5-month-old baby, Hadley, plays on the floor, snuggles in a front carrier, or naps in a Rock ’n Play. Two co-workers are officially designated to trade off watching the baby when Yu attends a meeting, but many others are eager to volunteer.
“It was a really cool experience to be sitting at a professional table that I belonged at, doing important work, but to also know that my baby was only 100 yards away,” says Yu.
More than 2,100 babies in over 200 organizations have been successfully brought to work nationwide through the program, according to the Parenting in the Workplace Institute.
“I think it’s made me more productive because it’s really boosted my overall job satisfaction,” says attorney Natalie King, another parent who is utilizing the program.
Research shows that well-structured babies-at-work programs result in numerous organizational benefits, including higher morale, increased teamwork and lower employee turnover.
READ THE FULL STORY ON SEATTLE’S CHILD
Excited to share a few gems from my first issue as Editor of Seattle’s Child magazine! Proud to feature artist and activist Aleksa Manila on the cover talking about her Drag Queen Story Hour! We also have an infants at work program feature, a Seattle reggae artist profile and tips on how to avoid food waste! Pick up a copy at your local Seattle library or subscribe here.
Click on the cover below to view the full issue!