Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Holidays

I was the seventh resident to tape a greeting card to the wall of our building's elevator. The design I had selected, and affixed with double-sided Scotch tape, was as holiday-neutral as the others. Snowman, Santa, a sprig of holly (mine), and wintry scenes. No figure on the cross, crèche, or menorah

When I first saw the cards on the elevator wall, which bore people's first names only and their apartment number, I thought, how quaint. At the time, it didn't occur to me to join in on the display because I had only been a resident for a few weeks.

Although I had introduced myself to several neighbors on my walkway, and said hello to fellow passengers in this small elevator, I didn't feel long-term enough to post a greeting card. (I feel a need to explain the use of "walkway" rather than "floor," which would've been the terminology in a high-rise. But I live in a 24-unit building, which is square-shaped and overlooks a ground floor landscaped courtyard. To me, it's very film noire.)

But on this elevator day, after going up-and-down several times to do my laundry, I decided, why not? My card read, "Happy Holidays." I added in pen, "to all!" and signed Elaine, #21.

Some background: I have lived and adjusted, in a variety of neighborhoods; I count 15 since 1960, the year of my first marriage. This condominium building, which houses a few other renters like myself, is my latest challenge. I have a one-year lease -- enough time to plant myself and see if I flourish. Or, if I'm seasonal, like the holly on my card.

One nourishment -- along with my family -- is the fact that I have settled in a fertile neighborhood called "Beachwood." My daughters and her friends have told me that this is the place where they all docked when they first moved as a troupe from Chicago to L.A.

I like the idea that I'm in a setting of fresh starts, hopefulness, and even youthful enthusiasm, even though I've topped all newcomers' ages by several decades. Why can't this also be blossoming soil for the older set?

In an earlier essay, I claimed I wanted to find a place that was walking distance from my daughter Jill. I thought the proximity would ensure an easy transition from my former home and life in Chicago, and that I could untangle any familial knots and knit a new tapestry of family love so tight, it'd be impossible to unravel.

So, while I was temporarily housed in an Airbnb that was walking distance from my kin in Silver Lake, I reviewed half a dozen places nearby. Alas, none felt like home.

But, as soon as I stepped into this Beachwood apartment, I sent a text to Jill: "it's perfect." When she -- in a reversal of roles that had her playing the scrutinizing mother and me the silent daughter -- came for a viewing, she agreed and the year's lease was signed.

So, instead of walking distance to Jill, I'm a 30-minute bus ride (#2 along Sunset Blvd.) or a 10-minute Uber or Lyft car ride ($8) to her home. But in the swap of neighborhoods, while losing easy access to dear relatives, I gained a grocery store a block away (the amazing Gelson's), a comedy club, (Upright Citizens Brigade), and a second-hand bookstore (Counterpoint where I bought Alice Munro's "Friend of My Youth").

Another bonus of my new home -- that helps to make up for the distance from Jill -- is that I'm a 15-minute walk from buses that can take me to several favorites: Temple Israel of Hollywood, a reform synagogue for Saturday morning Torah study, to Target on La Brea, or to The Grove on 3rd and Fairfax with its Farmers Market and Apple store.

And recently, I walked 1.3 miles to The Trails coffee shop in lush Griffith Park. It's that benefit that has me grateful for my locale, for from opposite directions, mother and daughter recently met for coffee, conversation, and hugs.

Eventually, the holiday cards that are decorating the elevator will be tugged down. Perhaps before that happens, passengers will take a moment to flip the cover of each card and read the name of the signer. Most will have no clue about "Elaine." I figure I have the coming new year to correct that mystery; not only for my neighbors, but also for resident 21 herself.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Coin-Operated Laundry

I opened the lid of the Maytag Commercial, measured half a capful of Tide with Downy, and dumped into the machine, my shopping cart full of bathroom towels and rugs. Then, I pulled six quarters out of my change purse and slid each into the slot. When I heard the tub fill with water, I felt as proud as if I had just been handed my college degree.

"This is a scene I never expected to witness," said Tommy. I had conjured my deceased spouse for this episode because I knew he'd get a kick out of seeing his Jewish Princess in a coin-operated laundry.

My mother, a neighbor of his in heaven -- who evidently couldn't resist an opportunity to jibe -- weighed in. "Somehow I thought your relocation to Los Angeles would move you up a notch," she said. The tone was familiar, one I recognized from my childhood that usually accompanied, "Stand up straight," or "Comb you hair."

"Why have you two teamed up to rain on my parade?" I said. "Couldn't you let my pride sustain for at least one cycle? I'm pleased I'm not thrown by this humble chore after enjoying in-home laundry for the past three decades."

"You're right," Tommy said, "but I remember how sorry you felt for me when I told you I once spent every Friday night at the Laundromat. I can still see your tender expression after I moved into your townhouse and you escorted me to your washer and dryer."

I hit pause on this dearly departed dialogue to recall the setting he described. It was 1996 and we had enjoyed a whirlwind romance. Tommy, only a few weeks after our first date, transferred clothes and favorite furniture from the apartment he lived in down the block to my place. We were both singles in our 60's -- he a long-time divorcé, me recently separated after a 30-year marriage -- and our compatibility encouraged a leap.

Although we were compatible, and did have similar opinions in music, television, plays, and pets; Tommy and I differed in religion and income.

It was these two mismatches that I intended to remedy. I would groom my second husband to be a Jewish Prince. There would be no more Friday nights sitting in a chair at the Laundromat with his latest paperback mystery as companion. With me, came a willing laundress who was tickled to offer this perk to my sweetie.

Along with the in-home washer and dryer, I pressured my prince to accept a new suit for our wedding, a set of golf clubs to replace his vintage batch, and his own Honda Accord. I mention these, not to extol my generosity, but to emphasize that Tommy didn't request these gifts, didn't care about money, and would've married me with none of my perks. But, I was so delighted to be with such a low-maintenance guy, whose only goal was to make me happy, that it brought me pleasure to shower him.

"Such a sweet story," my mother said, yawning at my exposition. "I like Tommy, don't get me wrong," she said, winking at him. "But I had hoped that for your second marriage, you would've landed someone who would spend money on you. You can't blame me for that."

Then, she wrapped an arm around her son-in-law, and fixed a red-stained kiss on his cheek. Tommy, who appreciated attractive women -- and Mother was a knockout -- smirked.

"And now, we find you in a dreary laundry room off of the garage, feeding quarters into machines. This is not where I expected to find you," she said.

"Just like you didn't count on a life behind the counter of a mom-and-pop grocery store," I said.  Mother's face changed. I had erred in reminding her of those years when she struggled to keep our business afloat while my happy-to-lucky dad steered it into one debt-laden boulder after another.

"Sorry, Mom," I said. "I know you just want the best for me. But, despite this laundry room, I'm really enjoying my Los Angeles apartment and life. I get to see more of your granddaughters and great-grandchildren, and I don't have to deal with Chicago's winter."

This brightened her; Tommy was smiling, too. Now it was my turn to grin as he took his mother-in-law's hand and said, "Okay, Min, time to go back. So, she's down here doing her laundry. If she can live with that, we shouldn't complain." Then he added, "Love you, sweetheart," and faded from my imagination.

"Me, too," Mom said, and before she disappeared, gave my cheek the red twin of Tommy's.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Treasure Hunt

My favorite clue was "kitty in a tree." I think Felix liked that one, too, because he asked that the Hello Kitty key fob be used in three more games.

It all started with a text from Jill: "Can you come over and hang out with Felix for awhile?" The previous day, she had hosted a large Thanksgiving dinner, and was hoping to catch up on needed rest. "I'll try and get a babysitter, but are you available until then?"

Her query arrived while I was riding a bus that would get me to a hardware store. I was seeking a garage door opener that my daughter could use to park in the space allotted to my new apartment. Happy visions of her dropping over spontaneously were spurred by long ago memories of the times in Chicago when I'd return home to find either of my daughters' cars parked outside.

On the bus, I was studying directions to the store and was as focused as if I were a gold rush prospector. But after receiving Jill's request, I shifted to my attention to my iPhone and typed: "Happy to help. On way to Baller's on Hyperion. Will text when done. Pick me up there."

This new plan heartened me, because four weeks into my move to Los Angeles, I was intent on being an asset, rather than a burden. If I could be helpful -- by entertaining my grandson and providing a respite to my daughter -- my immigration could be considered a win-win.

When I completed my purchases, that included a dry mop and a just-in-case toilet plunger, I typed: "Ready to be retrieved."

"Isaac's on his way." This alert from my daughter was another perk -- a chance to see my 18-year-old grandson whose words, "Why don't you move to L.A.?" sparked my recent long-distance transfer.

"Can you get Felix off his screen?" were Jill's first words after her welcoming hug. I followed her gaze to my six-year-old grandson who was prone on the couch, his eyes focused on an electronic pad and his thumbs swiftly pressing buttons.

I put my hands on my hips and surveyed the indoor scene. I considered my daughter's challenge as one crucial for me to accept and win. But first, I had to lure Felix outside.

While he continued his game, I took a few moments to contemplate their backyard. It held a lemon tree, Ping-Pong table, hammock, outdoor sofa, potted plants, a coiled water hose, and other items I could foresee as props in a game.

"How about a treasure hunt?" I said to Felix.  He lifted his head to face me -- interested, but not yet ready to abandon his screen. "I'll hide things, then I'll draw a map with clues. You'll have to search to find them. If you collect all, you'll win a prize."

To be honest, I had never devised, played, or completed such a game. Also, I can only draw stick figures and animals that can be identified by humps, feathers, or wings. But, I was undaunted.

Felix must've assumed I was a whiz at this sort of sport, for he quickly rolled off the couch to round up paper and markers. "You stay inside and close your eyes," I said, as I walked around the living room scouting potential treasures. Along with the kitty key fob, in a jumble of small toys, I found a plastic boat, a cotton stalk of celery, and a mini motorcycle with one wheel missing.

I quickly placed the kitty in the crook of the tree, the boat near the water hose, the motorcycle along the Ping-Pong net, and in what I considered a flash of inspiration, tucked the celery behind Isaac who was lounging on the hammock.

Then, I sketched out the map, and listed clues. Along with "kitty in a tree," I wrote, "boat needs water," "cycle gets a paddle," and "celery loves a boy."

"Come out now," I shouted to Felix. He ran from the house and grabbed the map, which looked to me as if one of his kindergarten pals had drawn it. As he raced through the yard, I'd shout an occasional, "you're warm" or a more helpful "turn around."

When he had successfully gathered all of the hidden toys, he raised his hands in triumph, and then continued for three more rounds with new objects and clues.

From the corner of my eye, I could see Jill watching us. Her face bore an expression reminiscent of the one I had when I had spotted her Honda outside my home all those years ago. It appears we all struck gold.

Public Transit

The patch on her right sleeve read "78866." Using the Pilot pen I had tucked into the notebook's spiral, I wrote down the number. "Let me repeat it," I said, "78866."
The conductor smiled as I continued, "I'm going to send a compliment to Metro. You've been terrific."
This was the second operator of a #2 Sunset-PCH bus that I had praised since my arrival in Los Angeles. The first driver, per my request, called out my stop, even though the audio system alerted me several streets prior to reaching the corner of Hollywood and Poinsettia.
The episode with 78866 began when my Tap card was out of funds, but my Senior Citizen Pass could permit a 35-cent ride. "I don't have change," I told her, pulling a dollar bill from my wallet. (The day before, my grandson, Felix, had showed me his treasure chest of coins, so I emptied my change purse into it.)  "Just take the dollar; my fault for being unprepared," I told her.
"Just ask one of the passengers for change," she said. "Don't waste money."
"No, that's fine. My mistake."
But, 78866 insisted; so curbing embarrassment, I called out my request, which was quickly answered by a mother cuddling her baby. She nimbly used her free hand to extract coins, at first refusing my paper bill, but accepting after I pressed it into her palm.
Of course, there have been hiccups on my use of Metro. On Sunday, after alighting from the #704 at Santa Monica and Fairfax, I asked a friendly woman where I would catch the #218. It wasn't until my 35-cents had plunked that I had learned I would've been travelling in the opposite direction of my destination in Studio City.
I relate these experiences because prior to moving to Los Angeles, various people warned me against its public transit system. "Dicey passengers, unreliable service," they cautioned. "You'll need to buy a car."
However, I had received my Carless Basic Training in Chicago and was determined to avoid the expense. Uber had successfully been my option for short trips, but for longer excursions, I turned to Metro.
My initial reasons to go carless in L.A. included: a desire to save money, to get exercise walking to bus stops and coffee shops, to learn its landscape via window seats, and to prove my independence. But I now realize it was my childhood adventures that bonded me to public transit.
It started in the 1940's, with the red Pullman streetcar that stopped on tracks outside our mom-and-pop grocery store. Here are excerpts, via my memoir, that may help you understand our relationship:
"Once on board the streetcar, Mother took a quarter from her purse and handed it to the conductor who made change for the ten-cent fare with the coin holder he wore on his belt. Then, with the car in motion, we lurched through the aisle until we found two empty spaces. After we landed on the cane-backed seats, I tugged at Mother’s coat sleeve and said, ‘Look, there’s Mrs. Schwartz, she’s going into the A&P.’"
Okay, that particular passage is a bit dour because it previewed the coming demise of our small establishment that couldn't compete with supermarkets. But there are other paragraphs that can enlighten.
Here's one from Chapter 7 of "The Division Street Princess":
"I recalled the first time Estherly and I rode the streetcar, on our own, to Wabash Avenue downtown for dance lessons. Dressed in outfits a step up from school clothes and carrying our tap shoes in drawstring sacks, we thought we were big shots.
"My cousin and I had a shtick back then that we ad-libbed every time the streetcar approached the bridge over the Chicago River. 'It’s going up,' Estherly would cry out, as the trolley paused at the water’s edge. While we’d watch the jaws of the bridge unfold and reach for the sky, and the tall sails slip below the open bridge, Estherly would add, 'What if it doesn’t shut back down tight? What if it falls apart when we cross it, and we plunge into the river?'
“'I can’t swim,' I would wail, and clutch Estherly’s sleeve as if I were a starlet in a B movie. 'Save me!' Once the streetcar made it safely over the closed bridge, we’d laugh at our pretend terror."
So, to all those who warned me against Los Angeles' Metro, you should know that once the red Pullman, streetcar tracks, and overhead cables, have been imprinted on your childhood brain, it's useless dissuading the rider from the joys of staring out the window, watching her world -- old and new -- pass before her enchanted eyes.

The Gold Line to South Pasadena

"You'll have to forgive Grandma," I tell Felix. "I'll be calling you 'Is-felix' for a few days."

My five-and-a-half-year old grandson flips his long hair from his eyes, pauses mid-bite, and waits for an explanation.

"You see, sweetheart, I've know Isaac for 18 years, so I'm used to that name. And even though he and I never lived in the same city, I saw him often enough to plant it in my head."

Felix takes another bite of his buttered French bread, and then patiently waits for more details.

We are sitting at an outdoor table in a bistro in South Pasadena. Jill -- his mother, my daughter -- is on her way back to our table and smiles as she sees up engaged in conversation. Her iPhone is pulled from her purse, and the image of small boy and grey-haired woman has quickly been saved and posted on Facebook.

The three of us have reached this destination after driving to a station in Chinatown, and then boarding the Gold Line to South Pasadena. Felix is enchanted by train rides and induces his mother to indulge him. I have been in town for just 24 hours, and although sleepy from pre-trip insomnia, do not forgo this chance to accompany them on the ride.

Jill places a Salad Nicoise on the table and leans in to hear the rest of my explanation for Felix's temporary tag. "So, until I get used to seeing you often, I'll probably start off by calling you by your brother's name. I'll catch myself and finish with your real name, and soon, you'll just be 'Felix.'"

My grandson appears to accept my excuse. His attention then turns to the trains passing by on a nearby track. Jill smiles; this makes sense to her, too. As for me, I am storing this scene on the plus side of evidence that I have made the right decision. Who could've imagined that two years after the death of my husband, Tommy, I would have moved from Chicago -- the city where I had lived nearly all of my 76 years -- to Los Angeles?

Although living walking distance to my daughter and her family was the primary reason for my move, I had a sense of something more propelling me forward, as if there was someone -- still unmet -- who needed my presence in L.A. I knew Jill and my grandsons were in solid shape and didn't require me, like some comic book heroine, to fly in and save the day. But, perhaps there was a young woman, desperate for a faux Jewish mother, or someone stuck at a decision crossroad that involved me raising the gate?

That Gold Line ride was the penultimate event on my magical first Saturday morning in Los Angeles, which opened with a Torah study at a nearby Reform temple. This attempt to replicate my regular Chicago Shabbat experience turned out terrifically. A group of two-dozen men and women in my age group, some originally from my hometown, welcomed me.

Following that, I joined my grandson Isaac for a deli lunch at Grand Central Market in downtown L.A.  This episode of sitting on a counter stool, eating a thick pastrami sandwich, with my tall, hip grandson at my right, filled me with a satiation that matched my appetite.

Sunday's schedule, two days post arrival, was similarly filled with happiness: a respite at Griffith Park while Jill hiked and I snacked and read the L.A. Times, then a visit to a pop-up restaurant with my son-in-law, Bruce, and my two grandsons.

A blank November calendar, which nagged with the possibility of boredom, is quickly becoming filled in. Along with Saturday mornings accounted for, I've had my first meeting for volunteers at Felix's school and will soon book a weekly tutoring date there.

Then, there's his birthday party on November 15, my book reading at Skylight Books on November 19, Thanksgiving at Jill's (the first ever in Los Angeles!), and tours of rental apartments in contention for my permanent residence.

As I think back on that first Saturday Gold Line train trip to South Pasadena, with my daughter and grandson seated a knee's length away, and all of the happenings of my first weekend in L.A., the identity of the person needing my presence here has become clear.

You've already guessed it, haven't you? It's me, of course.

My Magic Act

Anthony is six-five, nearly two feet taller than I. But as he steps into my Lilliputian-sized apartment, he does not seem to be dismayed by the ceilings he can likely touch on tip toes with an outstretched arm, or the walls he can reach a few feet away in either direction

In fact, this young man seems pleased at the condition of my place and the scenic view from my expansive windows.  But when I reveal the bedroom, which is concealed behind a sliding door, he folds his arms and says, "I'll have to switch out the bed for king-size."

"That's a shame," I tell him, "it's only a year-and-a-half old." We both stare at the full-size box spring and mattress, with Anthony envisioning how to fit in a new larger one. As for me, I'm conjuring the one I left behind when I moved from the Dakin St. house I shared with Tommy, to this River North high rise.

In that transition, I used an estate sale to dispose of most of my furniture and the contents of closets, drawers, shelves, and cupboards. Poof, 14 years of marital accumulation gone, as if a magician had waved a wand, making all disappear -except for memories.

With my upcoming move from Chicago to Los Angeles, I am the sorcerer. Faster than you can say "abracadabra," via a Craigslist ad, I found Anthony to take over the remaining six months of my lease, thus avoiding a two-month penalty. The slight-of-hand I used to lure him simply involved accepting the suggestion of my designer friend, Karen, and changing the listing from  "rental" to "furnished-rental."

"A cross-country moving truck would be too expensive," I explained to those still reeling from my announcement that I not only decided to move to L.A., but it would take place in one month's time.

Of course, Anthony isn't concerned with my logic; he had been seeking a temporary residence until a nearby condo he is rehabbing is finished, so our quick-change act works out well for both of us.

When we turn to study my mini office with the sapphire blue desk and bench, Anthony laughs as I say, "you'll never fit there."

My friend Chris, an artist, not only painted the two pieces a bright color to disguise their country-style provenance, but he cut the legs to make it fit my four-nine size.

That same blue color transformed our coffee table -- the one that stood between Tommy's and my facing couches, home for the pencils he used for his cross-word puzzles, TV remotes, and the Post-it notes that conveyed our chatter in the last silent years of his life. In this downtown apartment, the table has held the same props, except for the crossword puzzles. Now, the Post-it notes are only used for reminders from my buzzing brain.

In that previous move in April 2013, I stood at the living room window early in the morning awaiting the arrival of the truck that would cart away my small load. This time, there will be no window watching for I am using a large grocery cart to transport boxes to a UPS store two blocks away. Cartons of photographs, previously stored in garages, or basements, lockers, and closets have already gone to my daughter Jill's home in Los Angeles.

"Do you want my china?" I asked in a text to her. Six dinner-sized and six salad-sized Wedgewood were rescued from the set I had left for the house sale. I've had them for 54 years, 24 longer than the marriage that brought them.

"Nah," was Jill's first response to my offer. Then this, "I think I do want those dishes. Yom Kippur realization!" (Some spiritualism at play here?)

Recently, a neighbor came to my apartment to pick up a scarf she had left behind at an event we both attended. Because I was in that neighborhood for a lunch date, I was able to retrieve it for her. "How can you leave all of this behind?" she said, her eyes tearing as she scanned the space.

"It's just stuff," I said.

"But, you did such a great job putting it all together."

Later, my therapist suggested that what my neighbor really meant was, "How can you leave me behind?" 

Does my neighbor speak for all of my dear friends whom I'll soon hug goodbye? Could they really believe I'll allow our relationships to vanish? Through the magic of airplane travel, e-mail, Facebook, and cell phones, our ties will endure. We are tightly bound; even the famous Houdini would fail to separate us.

Leaving Home

The voice was familiar, but I was having trouble placing it. In past conversations that occurred in my head, the participants were deceased, but still chatty. There were talks with my husband, Tommy, and with my parents, Min and Irv. While all of these episodes were tinged with the sadness of loss, I relished my brain's ability to bring these characters back to life, even if briefly.

I was narrowing in on identifying my imagination's latest speaker: it was a woman's voice, young, and definitely not coming from the afterlife. When she continued talking, I felt as happy as if I were welcoming home a long-lost relative.

"I know that emotion you're feeling," she said. "It was the same one we experienced in other parts of our lives. Think back."

She was my 25-year-old self who had evidently decided to reappear at a critical juncture in my journey.  How odd that a youngster like that felt it necessary to counsel the 76-year-old she had become. But, I was delighted to see her. I took a moment to bring her full force into my vision: her brunette hair, her pretty green eyes covered by dark-framed glasses, her sweetheart-shaped face, and her welcoming smile.

I patted the empty side of my bed, inviting young Elaine to take a comfy place next to me. She slid in and I sighed as I took note of the extra inches of height awarded to the younger me. "What brings you here?" I said.

"Well, I could see you struggling with your decision to leave Chicago for Los Angeles. I watched you tossing each night, and wrestling with second thoughts. It was painful for me to witness that, so I thought it wise to reappear and help you out."

"It's not really second thoughts," I told this cutie pie sharing my bed. "I know I want to be closer to my daughters, and it's important to do it now, when I'm untethered and in good health. But after I enjoyed lunches and dinners with close friends, I felt sad, and wondered how I'd get along without these people in my day-to-day life."

"Yeah, I saw that," she said, "and I felt your sadness. You may not remember, but you've experienced the same emotion several times over the years. It's called 'separation anxiety.'"

"Hmm," I said, "that's interesting. I thought it was the separation from my daughters that was pulling me towards the West Coast. Now you're telling me the same feeling is tugging me back?"

"Think 1963," she said, pausing a moment for me to envision calendar pages flipping to that year. "Your -- or should I say 'our' -- first husband was called up to serve in Fort Devens, Mass., and you accompanied him. Remember how you cried at the thought of leaving your mother behind? Separation, sweetheart, separation."

So that's why it was my 25-year-old self who had volunteered for this lecture. She was present. Married just three years earlier, leaving the home she shared with her widowed mother. No wonder she felt so vulnerable."

"I have another," I said, grateful I could contribute to our memory bank. "There was the time when he and I left our daughters behind with sitters and travelled to London. We were supposed to stay for two weeks, but I missed the girls so much, I insisted we return after one week."

"Separation," she repeated, "separation. You felt it with Faith and Jill when they were toddlers and you've continued to have a hard time with their absence. But the important thing to remember, dearest, is that these feelings are natural; they're what make us human. We love, and become attached to people, and we feel pain when we leave them."

"Another thing to keep in mind," said my guru "is that in those earlier experiences, you didn't lose the people you left behind. When you moved to Massachusetts, and said goodbye to your mother and best friend, you phoned them regularly. This time, along with calls, Skypes, email and Facebook, you can periodically fly back to Chicago for reunions with special pals."

"Thanks, sweetheart," I said, "You've really made me feel better. Is there anything I can do for you?"

Young Elaine contemplated my question, then said, "I do have one request." She grabbed my hand as if to insure my attention.  "Don't let separation anxiety interrupt forward moves. I -- and all of your younger selves -- would be so bored if you suddenly decided to just stay put."

I gave our clasped hands a shake, kissed her adorable forehead, then turned over to sleep peacefully the rest of the night.


Walking Distance

In 1981, my first husband and I, and our two daughters, were living in a townhouse on N. LaSalle St. in Chicago. Our zip code was 60610. My mother Min liked our location; so with my encouragement, she submitted an application to move her and her second husband into a senior citizen building that was walking distance from my home.

In December of that same year, as relatives and friends sat somberly in our living room with its vaulted ceiling that rose two floors up, I told of Mom's plans to those who had gathered for her Shiva. "She was so excited that she'd be living close to the kids and me," I said, "but it wasn't to be." The mourners nodded their heads and wiped away tears.

Through all of my essays about possibly moving to Los Angeles to be walking distance to my daughter Jill and her family, I hadn't thought about this long-ago scene. But now, when I recall my mother's untimely death from a heart attack at 67, the line that reverberates is this: I never got a chance to tell her how I felt; to mend things with her.

If you've read my first memoir, "The Division Street Princess," you're aware I spent most of my childhood, and a good deal of adulthood, hoping to persuade Mom to love me for the person I truly was. And more importantly, to overcome my feeling that she was disappointed I wasn't taller, slimmer, and prettier.

When my aunts -- her sisters -- read my book, they were shocked to learn my dim assessment of the relationship. "Your mother loved you. She was so proud of you. How could you believe otherwise?"

But, our own truth often veers from what others perceive. And while her sisters likely heard Mom kvelling about me, I instead stored these childhood directives: Stand up straight. Comb your hair. You don't need that cake, and other orders that seem innocuous now. How could those words wound me so? Why have I carried them, like backpacks filled with rocks instead of school supplies, all these years?

Although Mother never made it to the apartment down the block from me, I may get to move across the country to a rental walking distance to Jill. And, if my other daughter, Faith, is fortunate enough to win another months-long writing assignment in L.A., my firstborn and me could possibly be roommates or neighbors.

To ease a potential departure from a city I have lived in nearly my entire life, and from dear friends and relatives, I'm considering the move a gift and opportunity -- which I never got with Min -- to assure there are no scenes or stings left over from my daughters' childhoods that they lug, or drop on a therapist's couch. And although I believe, and you likely do, too, that my daughters and I have an enviable and uncommon bond, do we really know their truths? Consider how divergent my aunts' opinions were from mine.

And perhaps my mother had her own wounds, inflicted by angelic me, that she kept hidden. What a pity it was that we -- who believed we had all the time in the world -- missed out on having conversations that surely would've resulted in hugs and vows.

Along with this late-in-life desire, to be a blame-free mother to my daughters, the other tasks to be addressed in a relocation would be: To be a better grandmother and mother-in-law, and friend to Jill's machetunim (my son-in-law's parents), and to first cousins living in Beverly Hills. Then there's the crowd of former Chicagoans and current Los Angelinos whom I hope to reconnect with.

This goal -- likely prompted by my recently attaining the age of 76 -- is partially based on a belief that I may have come up short with this far-away group. I could blame it on distance, but it also could be that I lack a certain keep-in-touch gene.

But, it's not too late to improve my mother/grandmother/in-law/cousin/friend relationships. Proximity will help. Desire on my part will certainly up my chances. And, willingness by those on the other side will guarantee it.

So, dearest mother Min, I deeply regret we never had that chance to live in homes walking distance from one another, and to smooth over wrinkles that foolishly left me wanting. Now, I've been offered an opening with my own kin. I hope to take it.