When Susan Dreams, Stuff Happens
Susan Brayton is old enough to remember when she thought all that music coming from her family’s console radio housed an orchestra. She spent WWII in the north of England in Cumbria where her mother managed a hotel. There she met many children evacuated from London, to escape Hitler’s bombs. Susan is also old enough to have had the privilege of setting off from England as an enthusiastic see-the-world twenty something after things settled down after the war.
Her adventures began down in third class on the Queen Mary, crossing to New York and arriving in November 1960, the very day JFK was elected. Within two weeks she got a secretarial job at an ad agency because, she now believes, her British accent bespoke a kind of elegance and sent a classy message. It was fun for a few months after which she took off with a tenor and a Brazilian to travel across Canada. Susan’s traveling companions drifted away, and she landed in San Francisco where the same lovely accent quickly got her another secretarial job. But she missed Manhattan and returned to find a great job at the Carnegie Corporation headed by John Gardner who would go on to found Common Cause.
Susan loved that job until she returned to San Francisco with her then husband. When her marriage ended, the first of her two BIG DREAMS happened: She was looking through her refrigerator door and lo, a garden! The garden was in San Francisco.
This was the late sixties when women first began wearing trousers to work. She wore them to her job at a design/advertising firm where those trousers soon became hot pants. Well, it was the late sixties after all.
Somewhat later, as office manager for AHP, the Association for Humanistic Psychology, she began awakening to her own personal development, as AHP was important to the human potential movement. For Susan, this also meant being part of the women’s movement and studying psychology. Soon, she became interested in the expressive arts and a creative life that has included visual arts as well as writing.
DREAM TWO: She envisions a life in the country.
So the first dream of seeing the garden through her refrigerator door finally came true in West Marin. With a friend, Susan bought a house in Inverness. This was 1977. At first, Susan was a weekender, until she decided to invite her mom to come live with her. Mom was 75 when she arrived and lived in Inverness for the next 29 years, dying at 104! Taking care of her mother as she aged was greatly facilitated by a deep friendship with the late Barbara Khurana who led a care- giving group focused on elders.
For many years, Susan was one of a group of West Marin women writers. Together, they published several volumes of their work that she believes are available in our libraries. Notably, Susan wrote about her wartime childhood in a short story: Memories and Angels.
Many of US know Susan from her determined work with CLAM. She was there at the beginning in 2000 and has served on and off the board ever since. She is committed to the work because of her deep and abiding belief that no community should be without housing for those of various income levels, that West Marin needs the diversity and economic health implicit in that idea. Susan has worked hard on CLAM’s fund raising committee and does so currently.
Dreams and CLAM and her house of so many years are central for Susan, and there’s more: She is a painter (fifteen years working with Wild Carrots and Toni Littlejohn). She is into improv with a small group of local women, including Claire Peaslee, and she attends a monthly Swedenborgian group led by Rachel Rivers.
And there are dogs. Currently, one Grace graces Susan’s side, the third lab she’s adopted from Guide Dogs for the Blind. The first two were “breeders” who together and in succession gave birth to 40 puppies, one litter per year for four years. Many of them went on to work as guides. Alas, Grace has a problem with her spine, so she experienced a “career change” and lives and loves with Susan.