Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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.

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