Thursday, April 17, 2014

N is for Neighbor

When I was nine, I moved with my mom and little sister from a townhouse to an apartment that was around the corner.  This involved filling the back of my mom's orange Datsun station wagon with our stuff and my sixteen year old cousin learning to drive a stick shift. She was visiting from Texas and would we would swim in the townhouse pool at night, after the 10 PM curfew.

The apartment was several rungs down the ladder from where we were in the townhouse, though the two carports shared a cinderblock wall.  I would climb over, scraping my palms and walk by my old bedroom window, peeking through the manicured bottle brush bushes to see who was in there.  My dad's black Lincoln was long gone. 

The apartment was dark and my new bedroom window faced an unpainted wood fence. The sliding kitchen door faced the pool, cloudy with too much chlorine and tended by a long haired man in cut offs. I had an odd assortment of new neighbors: a girl I knew from school who became my best friend, a weekend dad whose son was a year ahead of me and I still know, a man who was college roommates with my future father in law.  When I was a student at UCLA, I had dinner with my former neighbor and his visiting three year old son. He spoke only Italian and sat on my lap and we drew hand turkeys with the crayons on the table. 

Twenty seven years later I spent yesterday with his adult son, touring Bern Switzerland and the Paul Klee museum and eating gelato. My niece rode on his shoulders and my teenaged daughter shared music with him on his iPhone and my nephew played Uno with him on the trian. When I was a girl I went to baseball games with his dad and as a teen I crashed at his North Beach apt with my best friend from the same apartment complex. It was a crap apartment by any measurement.  But the collection of neighbors became my ecosystem and evolved into my life. 


  1. Hi Mary - well that certainly was a good mix of characters and some interesting time frames and situations - but what fun .. and how fabulous to think you're still friends and connected in some way .. great to read - cheers Hilary

  2. Thank you Hilary,
    Characters is right! All of them.

  3. It's amazing how the people in our childhood mold us, isn't it?

    1. Melanie, thank you, yes. Influence, mold & redirect.