An Interview with Peggy Fulton
The dog-eared calendar shows smiling kids on top, while every square below is overflowing with soccer practices, art docent sessions, work schedules, church activities, sailing, dental and doctor appointments, sport camps, assorted meetings, schedules for three schools, book club get-togethers, upcoming holiday gatherings – sound familiar?
For many, this is everyday life – and that’s why Peggy Fulton insists there’s nothing unique about her. The 12-year Benicia resident is a part-time teacher with three kids, two cats, a husband who works as an engineer, and a keen appreciation for them all. She also treasures friends from her many community activities, and admires those who work to improve Benicia and its schools. “There are so many people doing so many amazing things to reinvest in this community – it’s inspiring,” she says. “I know I can’t do everything, but I try to do a little in a lot of areas.”
Flexibility is key with the holidays looming. “I’m just fluid,” says Peggy, 45. “Some years things happen, some years, they don’t.”
That ability to adapt served her and her family well as they worked through job transitions during the economic downturn. “The reality is that the economy has hit everybody in different ways. It’s a healthy wake-up call – it’s OK for the kids to see that we’re considering every penny and where it goes. In a lot of ways, I’m appreciative of having to readjust,” says Peggy. “And our community completely pulled together with referrals. I just felt totally supported by that.”
Peggy and her husband, Dean, met while attending UC Davis. They have three children: Jake, 14, at BHS; Andrew, 12, at BMS; and Kara, 7, at Mary Farmar Elementary. When they gather for Thanksgiving, one thing is certain: Pink Salad will be on the table.
What Thanksgiving traditions do you try to keep every year?
Thanksgiving is all about the food. When I was growing up, my great-aunt always brought a molded Jello salad. That was our tradition.
In the Fulton family, the tradition is Dean’s mom’s Pink Salad. It’s got Jello, whipped cream, walnuts, pineapple, and frozen strawberries. She had it in the dorm when she was at Montana State, and she worked on duplicating the recipe.
His sisters never liked it, but my kids do, so we always have to have Pink Salad. There are so many ways of updating the rest of the menu, but the Jello is going to stay the same.
What’s the key to making your day-to-day life work?
I like simplicity. … Sometimes we have homemade meals and sometimes we have Costco potstickers. I’m all about balance.
What brought you to Benicia?
We both grew up in one community, and we knew that’s what we wanted for our kids – to grow up in one place. I grew up in Santa Rosa and Dean grew up in Newport Beach, so he really felt the pull of the water. I didn’t get it then, but now I do. Jake was two when we moved here from Vacaville and I left my teaching job in Vallejo at the same time.
That whole thing about community has always been important to me. … Even at 18, I realized I had an interest in community and the whole idea of connectedness. My major was applied behavior sciences and I studied the connections between the child, the community and education.
How did you make connections here?
When I got here, I was letting go of all my professional connections, letting go of all my Vacaville connections, and focusing on being a mom. So I was going to La Leche, St. Dominic’s Mom’s Group, and FEMALE (Formerly Employed Moms At the Leading Edge). The St. Dominic’s Mom’s Group was my lifeline when I got here. They were my support group and we’re still friends all these years later. They brought me meals when Andrew was born and they’re still part of my life. Then my kids went into Noah’s Ark and then on to school and I started volunteering there.
What volunteer work have you done over the years?
After I took BERT (emergency response, http://www.beniciaccc.org/bert) training in 2002, I realized that when an emergency hit, I wouldn’t just be at home – I’d be at my kids’ schools. So I solicited donations from the community and helped get emergency packs when my sons were at Henderson. Other mothers have taken that on and are doing just a much better job. I was an art docent off and on for nine years at Henderson and Mary Farmar. I still am an art docent for Kara’s 2nd-grade class at Mary Farmar. I’m helping – just helping connect all the pieces, nothing big – with getting the T-shirts designed for the Race for Education.
I now have three soccer players, and I manage Andrew’s soccer team. He plays for the Arsenal Under-13 team, so we spend two months traveling just about every weekend. Both boys play baseball, too. I also help teach for the Water Education Program run by Sue Alfeld-Frost. … All these other women do the big things. I just do little things. … There are lots of ways to connect up. … There are lots of ways to overlap with different groups.
You make time for a book club. What do you like to read?
I like to read fiction, historical fiction–something of substance, with good characters. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner is my all-time favorite book. I just read The Help and I liked it. A favorite of ours is City of Thieves–it’s a great, cross-genre book. I do love the book club. It sort of evolved from the St. Dominic Mom’s group. We were finding it harder and harder to see each other. So the book club meets once a month and we read a variety of books. We make time to come together, and we do remember to talk about the book. When I come home, my kids always ask me if we talked about the book.
What’s your passion these days?
I really love capturing an image with a photograph. I’m compelled to take a picture. If I see really good light, I have to stop and take a photograph. I drive my kids crazy. …It started with the Henderson auction. They encouraged people to donate and I didn’t know what I could donate. But I had inherited a camera and I thought I could do black-and-white portraits. It’s grown from that, mostly through word of mouth.
What would you do during your perfect day?
I feel like I have a lot of perfect days. I lead a simple life. … It doesn’t have to be a monumental day to be perfect. But I do wish my vegetables would grow (staring out her back window and sighing). I guess my perfect day would be waking up, going for a run, sharing meals with those I care about–I’d love to have someone else do my laundry.
Really, it’s all about the perfect moments that you have many times–the angle of the sun at certain times of the day, coming home at the end of the day and having someone there and the 100-year-old cat with the smelly meow.