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.


  1. As usual great, a slight reminder of your older sibling after divorce, moving into singles complex and getting involved with everything & everyone