Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Why I Live Where I Live

I live in California in a pink stucco bungalow. I have lived here for thirteen years, since our first child was seven months old. It is the longest I have lived anywhere as an adult. It is home. As I write this I can smell the fragrant jasmine blooming in my back yard. It is a small yard, but it contains three fruit trees – a plum, an apple and a lemon. This might seem unremarkable to some - particularly other Californians - but to me it is miraculous. To me, a New York City girl who grew up in a fourth floor walk-up, these are gifts I notice daily. The view out of my childhood bedroom window was of a small tar papered balcony with no plants, the fire escape on the building next door, the gray stone and brown brick buildings across the street, and beyond them, bigger buildings, many topped by the old cylindrical wooden water towers that are ubiquitous in downtown Manhattan. It wasn’t bad. It had its own brand of charm. I didn’t look out on a dark brick airshaft. I could see the sky. But now I look out on my morning glories and passionflower vines, a flaming coral rosebush, and even the neighbor’s palm tree. After twenty years on the West coast, non-native palm trees still seem highly exotic to me. That, and the fact that I don’t have to scrape ice off my windshield in the winter.

Inside our bungalow, it feels snug and safe - unpainted wood wainscoting, a working fireplace, a couple of squishy comfy chairs (often occupied by our two cats) and other various and sundry thrift shop furniture. There are piles of books and magazines, a castoff sweatshirt or two. It is rarely tidy or pristine. Photographs and paintings fill the walls, many created by friends and family members. Our two boys share a suitably messy catastrophe of a room, complete with bunk beds plastered with stickers, desks and bookshelves piled high with their “stuff,” and a very active tortoise slamming around in his tank. It is a small cozy house, old enough (by California standards) that my husband is always fixing something in it, on it or around it. As I write this, he is painting the door he just replaced on our vintage original 1916 garage (suitably sized for a Model A). The beach is within walking distance, and to get to it we pass under canopies of large trees through a neighborhood of even older, bigger homes - Victorians. The kids can ride their bikes to school. I guess you could call it picturesque. That is the reason it is not unusual to occasionally see a film crew up from L.A. doing a location shoot here. It has a deceptively All-American small town feel, though it is right outside of San Francisco. So now you are thinking, ”Ah! There’s the catch…she lives in earthquake country!” Indeed we do, and it is worth every glorious, high-risk moment.

Most importantly, it is where my children are growing up - much too fast.

And besides, there is something about living in a little pink house that appeals to this Big City Girl...