Leaving Los Angeles
Eighteen and a half years ago, I left New York City. It was a very difficult move for me, to be sure – although not nearly as difficult a packing job as the one I am currently wrapping up has been. I lived in a studio apartment, and had been stashing things bit by bit at my parents’ house in Los Angeles for a few years before that. It took me only a few days to pack versus the few months this has taken.
My intention at the time was to spend a year with my parents in Los Angeles, then it was on to the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. After graduation, I planned to stay in the Bay Area – even had all my things from New York move there and stored. But at the end of that year, just a month before I was scheduled to enter culinary school, my father died, on January 1st of 1996.
I was able to delay the beginning of my start at CCA by about 6 weeks. It was a very tough year. I drove back to L. A. once or twice a month, to help my mother and brother sort through all the kinds of things one must after someone dies.
My mother had never lived alone. She went straight from her mother’s house to her husband’s, as so many women of her generation did, so she began finding other places to sleep at nights – a cousin whose husband worked graveyard shifts, another widowed friend who could stand being alone even less than Mom could. After graduating, I eventually moved back in with her, but after a couple of months, she decided she didn’t really like living with me either, so moved in with her widowed friend – well sort of. All of her things stayed in the house she lived in with my father, and she would come spend days there often, but never slept there again. She stayed in the house with her fellow widow, until just a few years before she died, when she moved into a lovely home two blocks from the beach in Redondo with my brother.
And that is how I came to live all those years in the beautiful house in Baldwin Hills that I have just left.
Getting out was an ordeal. When I explained to a friend of mine how the packing and clearing was going (after going through the layers of my stuff, there was the layer of my mother’s underneath), she said “ so, it’s like an archaeological dig”. A good description. Unfortunately for this process, my mother and I were both pack rats. And the emptying of the house is still not a completely done deal.
I am not sorry to be leaving Los Angeles, and doubt that I will miss it much. But I will very much miss this house with its walls of windows and sliding glass doors, and its lovely views of the city below, especially the awe-inspiring one I woke up to each morning. I will miss the myriad birds calling to each other down the hill, just outside my window – the pair of Cooper’s hawks that occasionally lit on the railing of my balcony patio, and the red tail hawk that spent time in the tree outside my window.
It has been the house of many gatherings of family and friends over the past 32 years, and I am certainly not the only one saddened that it will be sold. But then, life brings changes, doesn’t it? I can only hope that the next occupants of the house will love it as much as I have. And now it’s on to my new life in New Orleans – after my time in the Bay Area and wine country, of course.