Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

"Orphaned again!" my dad cried, as My Beloved and I prepared to leave my parents' home for our flight back to New York. My parents have watched a lot of kids (6) and grandkids (13) and great-grandkids (5) come and go from this house, while they stand on the front porch and wave goodbye. They prefer the hellos to the goodbyes.

We'd been staying with my parents for nearly two weeks, ever since escrow closed on my L.A. condo and we'd moved out—watching the moving truck drive away...






















...and vacuuming and scrubbing the now-empty space.

















I leaned on the third-floor railing and cried for a minute. Stan patted my back. Then we laid out our keys on the kitchen counter, gathered our backpacks and our bottles of 409 and Windex, and closed the door behind us. Goodbye, house.

The two weeks at my parents' house were a gift. Yes, it was a little weird staying in the bedroom I'd grown up in, surrounded by too many pictures of myself in my hideous adolescent state. But the come-full-circle effect was soothing in a way I hadn't expected. I started my L.A. life in this house, and I left my L.A. life in this house. In fact, I literally left my L.A. life in this house, since my mom encouraged us to fill up a drawer with our socks and t-shirts so we'd have them there for our next visit which would be VERY SOON, she suggested.

Stan and I got up early each day and sat in the backyard reading the paper, while the cat put on his Fearless Hunter costume and stalked grasshoppers.






















I had the chance to appreciate the stillness and the rustle of leaves and the changing light.

















We drove around town in the car we'd sold to my niece and borrowed back from her, now with her bright-yellow graduation tassel swinging from the rear-view mirror. I jammed my camera phone with an L.A. mosaic—from the ridiculous...






















...to the sublime.

















We scheduled as many goodbye lunches and dinners with friends and family as we could, and I always said the same thing: "We'll be back often. We'll just be traveling from east to west to east, instead of from west to east to west." But I discovered we couldn't stop people from treating this like a mournful farewell.

Between outings, we spent mornings at the breakfast table and evenings at the dinner table with my mom and dad, tucking ourselves in among the routines they've formed over 61 and a half years of marriage. I appreciated all over again my mom's unassuming strength, my dad's quick wit, the old Bob and Ray jokes retold with fresh appreciation, the Sinatra CDs playing in the background, the comfortable potato face of Jim Lehrer each night on the big TV, the sound of my mom's voice reading crossword puzzle clues to my dad, now legally blind with macular degeneration. Like a Waltons family of four, we'd bid each other good night and take up our stations in bedrooms down the creaky hallway.

And then, last Monday morning, it was time to go—time to gather our bags and the giant sheep-cat, and head east toward home.

(To be continued...)

11 comments:

So Lovely said...

I don't think I said goodbye to you because I don't feel it is. Its just a good excuse (and I will be taking you up on your invitation) to come to NY and see "the city" through your eyes. xxx

Marilyn said...

You're a marvelous storyteller, coast to coast! Goodbye will turn to hello in the NY chapter - and I can't wait to hear it.

Susan Champlin said...

Thank you both, my lovely friends. So Lovely: I'm so glad you agree it's not a goodbye; it's just a change of venue. Can't wait for your visit. And Marilyn: I hope not to disappoint you with part two. :)

shayma said...

so bittersweet. i do hope you are becoming a NYer as the days go by...you will have dual "citizenship", what more can a gal ask for, no? x shayma

Tina Cockburn said...

*sniffle*

Anne Mazer said...

Welcome back to the East Coast! I loved the pictures - ridiculous & sublime. Can't wait to hear more of your Eastern adventures.

Susan Champlin said...

Shayma: I'm not sure if I'll ever feel qualified to call myself a "New Yorker," but I am feeling increasingly at home—and lucky to have 2 cities to feel at home in. You know all about that (with many more than two!).

Tina: Waah! Don't cry, just come visit! Love you.

Anne: Thanks so much! I hope to get up your way for a visit sometime soon.

Wzzy said...

I feel the same as So Lovely. Our lunches were infrequent enough that, presuming we schedule them for most of your visits to L.A., it'll feel like you've never left :). And in the meantime, I'm delighted to have another friend with whom I can visit in New York. xo

Patty said...

Sounds like you had a great time, looking forward to your next post!

Susan Champlin said...

Wzzy: Oh please, pleeease come visit. Meanwhile, I look forward to our next as-usual lunch in L.A. xo

Patty: Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

Cindy said...

Your blog title had me from the beginning. I am a huge Hepburn fan. Enjoyed the read.