Gail has been a mother since she could hold a doll. The transition from raising her brothers to her own kids was seamless. After 2 marriages she started her own daycare business to pay bills for 5 kids, and a grandchild on the way. Foster care and adoption came next. She fostered over 50 children within a 16 year span. With 8 adoptions and 5 biological kids she is the modern day embodiment of the Old Lady in The Shoe.

With the death of her father creating waves strong enough to uproot her family, Gail's mother Gwen relocated everyone to Davis and started life anew. 

The days of rumbling around on the other side of levee with her brother Greg and their neighbors The Spencers were over. No more small town, no more familiar faces. She had to leave the house that her father built with his bare hands.

Family at a glance

  • Greg Costa
  • Gwen Wilder
  • Wes Costa
  • Wesley Costa
  • Sheila Costa
    (Sister In Law)
  • Randy Hurlbut
Gail with her childhood dog.
Gail and her childhood dog.
Gail with her brother Greg.
Gail with her brother Greg.

Raising Greg, Randy, Matt

Gail reached her primary development in the 60s, and while she took part in small-town activism like burning her bra or painting a tongue-in-cheek swastika on the back of her car she never really got into trouble.

She's always been the motherly strict center of the family shitstorm. With her brother Randy and his seizure prone abusive father Carl now in the picture she was looking for the quickest way out. On graduation she was engaged to her high school sweetheart Greg and ready to welcome her first son of many, Matt.

Gail's first wedding

Gail and her ex-husband Greg
Gail and Greg Bain as newlyweds.

Greg the husband, not the brother

With Carl the stepdad regularly choking his own child, as well as Gail and Greg, Gail had to find a way out. She met her future husband (WHERE DID THEY MEET?) Greg and decided to get married to leave her horrible situation. They quickly had 2 kids and started the American dream. Greg wore beatle boots, flared pants and unbuttoned shirts starting his career as an electrician. Gail rocked mod dresses and long flat hair split down the middle.

The American dream was frustrating for Gail. Greg forbade Gail to work, and demanded that she stay home and be a full-time mother to their now 2 sons, Matthew and Michael. With no time to continue college she was forced to be the nuclear family mother. Greg's alcoholism started to surface in incredibly dangerous ways and they grew further apart while managing to have another 2 children, Sarah and David.

Greg did not want Sarah and David, and often let them know. They would be insulted and shamed by Greg's side of the family even to this day. With the constant verbal abuse Gail received and Greg's crippling alcoholism things finally came to a head and they split. It was not a clean break. Greg was often offering his children a place where they could stay up all night, drink, smoke and party. Every time the kids didn't like their mom's decision they would run away to their father's house.

Gail's grey hairs.
One grey hair for every kid, Gail says.

Second Marriage

With her children in and out of the house on a weekly basis Gail felt alone and frustrated. She also had no job skills to fall back on. She faced her humility, accepted welfare and went to food closets at church to be able to feed her kids and herself.

She joined PWP (Parents Without Partners) to help her healing process after a nasty divorce. PWP is a group of single parents that hold events for their children like barbecues and laser tag that allow the kids to play together while the parents mingle and date.

She met Rick. Like Gail, Rick had children and a divorce. She fell madly in love with, married, and had a son with Rick: Jonathan. Rick's daughter was the same age as Sarah and would often visit from Hawaii.

Rick's a man whose emotions are on the borderline. Either he was playing with his new children or going through his spouse's private diary and making snide comments in the margins with red pen.

After kicking Mike out of the house at 17, abusing Gail and Jonathan, and cheating on Gail with a woman from work it was time for Rick to go. It wouldn't be as clean of a break as it was with Greg.

Gail's fully loaded van.
Gail's fully loaded van.

Foster & Adoptive Care

With another addition to the growing collection of children Gail had amassed and a sudden birth of a grandchild in the home Gail had to find a reliable source of income. With her years of experience raising children she opened up a daycare in her 2 story Sacramento home.

It was a natural fit. Gail ran her daycare with love and stimulation for the kids, and because the house was always active with different age groups it gave everyone a chance to have a partner in crime. Kids came and went and children grew up and moved out.

Long thereafter Gail started the process to foster children in need. It's like the scene in Forrest Gump where they show his childhood house it looks like an ant hive of people running around doing different things, people yelling to one another from upstairs.

Back to PWP. Gail met Bill, a man who lived out in the country with one functional eye. The other had been accidentally stabbed by his mother when he was a young child. Gail moved in with Bill and took her kids with her.

With the big move to a slow town the turnover rate of foster children was going down drastically. Instead of children being in the house from 2 nights to 2 months, it became that children were staying longer. Much longer. A group of 3 siblings, Sam, Jerry, and Miranda were brought to Gail to foster in the country home on 5 acres.

A towhead baby-blue eyed baby by the name of Brian was handed over to Gail and Bill. It was as if it was a sign. The whole family started raising Brian, a child whose body was so riddled with the effects of having a drug addict for a mother that he would shake and scream in his sleep nonstop. From an infant to 3 years old Brian was Gail's son. With a sudden and swift move, Brian's mother got her act together and passed a drug test to take Brian back into her custody while Gail's adoption process was underway. It was a devastating blow to the family and served as a wedge to drive Gail and Bill into separate spots.


Shortly after a shaking and barely alive infant was placed with Gail. Similarly, Austin's biological mother was a drug addict and he had a slew of medical issues. With problems arising between Gail and Bill, Gail took the initiative to look for a home further north where she can raise her children who were still children, Sam, Jonathan, Jerry, Miranda, and Austin.

The house was closer to her mother and other relatives, and just the right price since the housing market collapse had just hit and prices were lower than ever. Gail and crew moved to Yuba City and started a totally new life.

3 additional girls were placed with Gail in her new, smaller house in the suburbs. There wasn't enough room, and there was only 1 common bathroom for the now 9 people living together. But it worked, and through the incredibly small stipend the government provides and her uncanny frugal and saving skills she was able to support her entire group of kids. Sam, Jerry, Miranda, Maggie, Jackie, Austin, and Gracie were all adopted.

A few years after adopting Austin, Gail finds out that Austin's mother has had another child. It's nearly the identical story to her blood brother's. Natalie was riddled with the effects of continuous in-utero drug absorption. It look constant stimulation, specific mental exercises and lots of attention to make sure that she would overcome any kind of disability she would have due to the effects of the drugs. If you look at her now she would seem like the cutest kiddo you've ever seen, but as an infant there were serious questions about how she'd behave when she was older.

Many have moved out of Gail's home now that they've grown up, and there's always new additions in the way of the kids friends wanting to hang out. Gail is the living embodiment of The Old Lady in The Shoe.

Gail's kiddos.
Gail as a child.

Gail and mother Gwen.
Gail and her mother Gwen, below.
Gail's Family
Gail's hair length.

Gail, Randy and Greg.
Gail, Randy, and Greg below.
Gail Haggard

Follow her lineage

It has taken years to collect, curate and record my family's history and I've barely scratched the surface. What you see in this document is an exploration of an atypical Californian family. A common theme throughout my lineage is strong women providing for themselves and their kin passed their due. It's clear to see the turning points in my Great Great Grandmother's life and how it has rippled down generations.

Each person portrayed here is done so with love and kindness, and I hope that I have done their character justice.

A Study Of Family

by Jonathan Haggard

All icons from The Noun Project.