Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The View From My Window

Growing up in La Jolla we didn’t have a whole lot of space between houses, so my bedroom looked out into the Springhorn’s side yard. For some reason, I referred to Mr. Springhorn as “Big Puff Man”. My father, never one to miss a good opportunity to invent a nickname, called him Nebbish. His explanation of the term nebbish went as follows: If a pile of dog poop was sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, a normal person would step over it or around it. A person of lesser intelligence would step in it. The nebbish? Well, the poop would fly up and hit him. I don’t recall anything about Mr. Springhorn other than the names we called him, so if we was indeed a nebbish, I was none the wiser. The Springhorns are long gone, their house now replaced with a multi-million dollar mansion which affords no view at all from my former bedroom window, save the looming side of this palatial estate.

The first apartment I lived in was home to a bunch of college students. I was roommates with my best friend Jenny. We have known each other since we were 14, but after living together, took a year-long, much-needed hiatus from speaking to each other. The group of neighbors in one wing of this complex got together regularly. We did our grocery shopping and hung out by the pool eating Popsicle Big Sticks and gossiping. Sort of like Melrose Place, without all of the promiscuity. My bedroom window looked out on the parking lot in which my poor little CRX HF got broken into multiple times, and gutted of its stereo system. On a more positive note, my neighbor, Matt serenaded me with You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling from the parking lot beneath this window (in a completely platonic way). This was the year that the movie Top Gun came out, and we lived about 2 miles from where it was filmed. One of my neighbors was my future husband, Steve.

About two years later, Steve and I flew up to northern California to look for a place to live. The company he worked for was relocated, and he asked me to move in with him. After a week of searching, we had had very little luck finding something affordable that was also in a neighborhood that lived up to our high standards. Running out of time, we finally found a little place with the coolest nautilus-shaped shower. The stall needed no door, and instead you circled back into the inner chambers to conduct your ablutions. The view from all of the windows was quite unremarkable, and did not indicate any cause for concern. Congratulating ourselves on our good luck, we paid our first month’s rent. Just as were signing the rental agreement, we heard the first train rattle by. Too late now, we shrugged, and finished off our signatures. Two months later, we had moved to a locale a bit more off the beaten tracks.

We lived with Steve’s parents for a while after we had Weston and before we bought our house. His parents have a huge old valley oak tree in front of their house, and our bedroom window looked out into the branches of that tree. At the time I was working on getting my Master’s degree in biology. One afternoon I was studying for my ecology class and reading about feeding guilds. According to the book I was studying, all of the species that feed on a plant in the same way are part of the same guild. This is not a totally easy concept to visualize, but as I looked out at that oak tree, it became totally clear. A flock of California quail could be seen pecking around the base of the tree in one guild. A nuthatch, and a bunch of chickadees feeding on insects gleaned from the bark belonged to another. The woodpecker drilling deep beneath the bark belonged to a third. I think I aced that question in the essay section of my exam.

I moved so many times between that first apartment and our current house, that by the time we owned our own little slice of San Jose, my personal belongings had been pared down to a few pieces of furniture, clothes, and the contents of one or two large boxes. When we first moved in our bedroom looked out on a Doughboy style pool surrounded by aggregate patio. Terrified that I would wake up one morning to find Weston floating face down in the pool, I insisted that we get rid of it. It wasn’t a very nice pool anyway. It was always filled with leaves from the overhanging trees. It wasn't heated either, so anything deeper than the first two inches was shrink-your-assets cold. So out the pool came, and after several years of trying to landscape the remaining hole, we finally put in a lawn and a nice interlocking paving stone patio. Now, eleven years later, we have come full circle. The summer of 2008 has been a hot one. Almost all of the kids in our neighborhood are a lot older than Garrett. Consequently though he loves to swim, he hardly gets invited to another house to do so. A couple of weekends ago, Steve and I went out and bought a small inflatable pool that holds about 180 gallons of water. The kids love it and spend hours wetting every available surface within 10 feet with their splashing. Including my bedroom window, which once again looks out on a pool.

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