Monday, July 16, 2012

six and seven, the novelization

Where I left the story last time, we were still on Orange Grove, with our tiny baby Wren, our nightly police helicopter flyovers, and our International Student neighbors who asked me, a week after I delivered, when I was due....

At some point, one of our neighbors mentioned to the owner of the apartment complex that we had a big black dog, and that pretty much was the end of that. Although we'd been assured it would be fine to have a dog there, it wasn't, and we had to find a new place to live. We'd made some amazing friends in East L.A. so that's where we headed. Specifically to a tiny street called Ruby Place that wound up a hillside right off Figueroa in Highland Park. Lots of those little streets end in dirt roads, with chickens on them. L.A. is a funny place. Our street ended with us, across the street from the neighbors who rented their house as a party venue and karaoke parlor.

We never called the cops on our loud neighbors, because it was LA, and our street was blocked at least twice by officers in the middle of a manhunt, and I thought they might laugh at us for noise complaints that didn't involve gun fire.

We had a tiny little green yard, with a cypress tree, roses, about 5 square feet of grass and a bed full of bright orange poppies. We had ancient window units, and in the middle of the summer heatwave I devised a system of sheets and plastic bags hung from the ceiling to create a slightly livable area the poor thing could actually cool. When we pulled back the carpet, we could see the ground underneath the house through the floor boards, and when we dug in the backyard for a garden, we realized the landlord had been dumping trash, covered by a thin layer of top soil, to "level" the yard. There were bike tires sticking out of the ground, still attached to bikes long buried, and various places where the ground was really a lot 'springier' than it should be. That house was the first place I ever felt an earthquake. It was also the first time I ever set my alarm clock based on the weather channel, so I could wake up in the middle of the night and watch it rain.

It was the first place I grew green beans, and the first place Wren walked and talked. Jessie powered me up the hills all around Highland Park with Wren in a stroller to help me (unsuccessfully) lose the baby weight, and Ramona and I again got to know our neighborhood together.  Chase and I saved our change for the amazing burrito truck in front of the laundromat at the bottom of the street. We ate Korean BBQ with our neighbors on one side and we helped our crazy racist neighbors on the other side flag down the ice cream truck and spray for ants. We also kept an ear out for the line between 'crazy racist' and 'crazy racist child abusers.' That was the second time I called the cops on a neighbor. And the next guy who lived there was great. And he DIDN'T play a trombone in his living room with the windows open during Wren's naptime. So... yeah.

Our next house was a 5 bedroom craftsman, fallen on very hard (shiny marble floors level, hard) times and in need of a loving and careful renovation to bring it back to its former glory.

Instead it got us. Our little family, plus Richard, plus Wes and Emily from Ohio, plus a rotating array of dudes who slept on our couches and eventually either paid rent or didn't. I lost my craft room that way, and Chase and Richard lost their study, but in exchange we got the Daves and I think it was probably worth it. That was the loudest house I've ever lived in. About 2 blocks from Route 66. On Figueroa, next to a bus stop and across the street from another bus stop and a school for juvenile delinquents. The TV in the living room could be up as loud as it could go, with no one in the house making any noise, but if the light on the corner outside turned green, you wouldn't hear anything but the trucks and the buses. We saw the graffiti truck every other day on that corner, but we never had anything stolen.

We planted a garden there too, but after all my hard work, the pumpkin leaves turned white and nothing grew. I was discouraged and gave up, but the next year there was a crop of pumpkins back there and I hadn't planted a thing. We had an amazing Thanksgiving that year, with wonderful friends who were really our family there, and it was so carefree and relaxed that we actually burst into spontaneous song. Like a movie. So I love that house for that one moment alone. It was wonderful to live with friends. Everyone was busy with their own things, but we had dinner together when we could, and we kept the house relatively clean. Ramona was an outside dog while we lived there, except around May 5th, July 4th, Christmas and New Years, when she was a very terrified puppy, jittery and wild eyed in the laundry room. The valley of Highland Park, from the freeway above it, is just a bowl full of smoke and sparks on any major holiday. UT won the national championship while we lived in that house and Chase went to the Rose Bowl to watch it. We were still such a little family that Wren went with us everywhere- to shows and parties and whatever we were doing. She tagged along, and was more comfortable with adults than other kids. She also called us by our first names in that house, because no one else living there called us "mom" or "dad" and she didn't want to be the odd one out. Trader Joe's was just around the corner, so was Mr. T's and great parks and the Arroyo and a million other wonderful things. We went to storytime at the Pasadena Library every week, and swim lessons at the aquatic center, and all the other things you do when you're learning how to be a family.

Jane was born while we still lived there. We took pictures with her as a newborn on the never used front porch, with the buses thundering by behind us.  We came home from the hospital, and then went right back when we realized my spinal headache wasn't going away. I remember the splintering pain of getting back out the front gate and back into the car for that ride. On the way home, I took the pocketful of hydrocodone my OB had pressed into my hand, closed my eyes, and made Chase stop at In & Out. Janey's first meal was basically an opiates laced chocolate shake in breast milk form. I was a bit more relaxed about my second baby, apparently.

When we left the Figueroa house we were leaving L.A. That house was cheap to rent (with all our friends) but would have been more than half a million dollars to buy. And the bad schools were too bad, the good schools were too expensive, the kids were all too old for their ages, with nicer phones than me, and waaay better style. We loved it there so much, and the friends we made were permanent, but we weren't home.

I'll have to leave 8-10 for the next installment. STAY TUNED!


The Williams Family said...

Come on with 8-10! It's like waiting for the 7th Harry Potter to come out!

nuf said...

Kate, I love these! such a great idea.