May 14, 2015

I first met Richard under rather tragic circumstances. While our house in Silver Lake was being rebuilt after our fire, we had rented a house about a mile away in the Atwater Village neighborhood. It took us a while to settle in there, but once our smoky belongings had been cleaned and delivered to our new temporary home, we felt pretty comfortable again. One night while I was reading with our son Theo in bed, we heard a horrible cry coming from outside. It sounded like a cat but there was something distressing about it. After I left Theo, I opened the front door and looked out to see a huge, wolf-like coyote on the front lawn. He fixed me with an icy stare. I quickly closed the door. The next morning, when I was loading Theo in the car to take him to school, I saw white fur on the front lawn. My heart sank. A white cat had often come visiting our yard from next door. The cry I had heard must have been him. I shook my head and wondered how I was going to break it to the neighbor. I had never met them.

Later that day, a man I didn’t recognize was walking around in front of our driveway apparently looking for something. I went out and asked him if he was by any chance our neighbor and had lost a white cat. When he said “yes,” I related to him what I had witnessed as kindly as I could, then blurted out, “I’m so sorry!” and gave him a hug. I felt so heartbroken for him. He seemed sad but not devastated and explained that it was really his partner’s cat actually and his pets were dogs. We chatted a little and I told him our background and that we were only going to be living there a short time while our house was being built. Over the next year or so (the house took much longer than we expected!), I became friendly with Richard – even though he admitted that he and his partner mostly kept to themselves. Richard brought us lemons from their tree, and we shared the delicious oranges from ours. He also gave me a couple of potted loquat trees for us to plant in our garden when we returned home.

When he learned that Theo was really into weaving bracelets out of rubber bands (the Rainbow Loom craze of Winter 2013-14), he revealed that he loved to weave and had a couple of looms and a spinning wheel. He invited us to see them, explained the warp and weft of the loom and showed Theo how wool was spun. When it came time to move back into our house, we were of course happy to be returning to our home, but it was sad to say goodbye to such nice neighbors. We have kept in touch via email mostly and we’ve stopped by to say hello. We were secretly happy to hear from him that the people who moved in after us weren’t as nice as we were.

Today, Richard was on my mind. I was coming out of the super market when I bumped into an acquaintance from our neighborhood, Paul. He, his wife Daisy and their two young children had been renting the house owned by our friends Julie and Marty (see Feb 20), but had moved to another rental in Silver Lake, which had turned our to be prohibitively expensive. So, he explained, they had decided to move to a great place in Atwater Village. I told him we’d lived there and asked him where they’d be living. He described the street and the house, and it turned out to be the same house we’d lived in for one year, four months and three days. We were both flabbergasted. But I was delighted to be able to tell him honestly that, other than the evening when the coyote devoured the neighbor’s cat on our front lawn, we’d really enjoyed living in that house. Sure, the backyard was a little odd, with roses, tomatoes and bowling balls all sharing a single flower bed, but the orange tree was spectacular, and the house itself was very comfortable and within walking distance from cafés, restaurants and convenience stores.

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I wished Paul well for their move to our former house this coming weekend and told him we’d drop by sometime. And when I returned home, I emailed Richard to let him know he’d be getting some really lovely neighbors soon. I managed to fill up the afternoon with my work and parenting and then a school event in the early evening. I’d been planning to go on a walk and leave another gift on my path, but a storm hit Los Angeles – a very rare happening in May – and rain began to pour, trapping me in the house just before Theo’s bedtime. Fortunately, my husband David had been planning to go to a bar in Atwater Village to catch the second half of tonight’s Clippers game, and was still brave enough to venture out in the rainstorm. I didn’t want to send him out of his way, but the bar was just around the corner from our old rental house and Richard, so I asked him to drop off a little gift for Richard. He gallantly agreed to deliver it (thank you, David!). I wrote him a note and slipped a hand woven bracelet I’d bought in Machu Picchu, Peru into the envelope as a wish for good luck with the new neighbors, in the hope that they’ll be as nice as (but not nicer than!) us.

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