Cool air flowing from the open window in our dining room freshened the space and my spirits this morning. I could hear birds…finches chirping nearby and crows cawing from their perches in the tall redwood trees. As I reveled at the sight of blue sky, a young couple approached a car that was parked in the carport across from us. The woman glanced up and waved at me. Later, chattering from the sidewalk led me look out the window again. Little James and his brother Tyler and dad Richard were returning to their home downstairs with a box of doughnuts. The sweet aroma drifted upwards. Nice way to start a Sunday!
My husband and I take breaks during the day to check on whatever is going on in the neighborhood outside our second-story condo. Garbage and recycling pick-up days find us at the window to watch the lumbering trucks maneuver the tight turn at the end of our street. From morning to evening, delivery vans pass by, sometimes stopping at our unit with everything from air purifiers to organic produce to wine. The boy and girl from around the corner race along on scooters and jump curbs on skateboards. Young moms stroll or rush past with little ones in tow. Harsh screeching of a leaf blower draws us to the window several mornings every week, “Yes, it’s the gardener across the fence and yes, he’s headed away.” It will be quiet again soon.
Friday, I watched our neighbor Jason rope two canoes to the rack on top of his truck. I called out the window to him and asked where he was going. Smiling, he told me the whole family was heading to Lake Tulloch for a long weekend to celebrate Kennedy’s 15th birthday. Jason’s wife, Rachel, has become our good fairy during this time of isolation. Dropping off home-made smoothies and bags of cookies at our door, checking in when the smoke got really bad, treating us to normal food from Burger King, she exemplifies neighborliness. I return the favors with deliveries of scones or my own home-baked cookies. We’re happy to know these neighbors are getting away from the city for a few days.
Yesterday we met our neighbor Valerie as we headed out on our walk. She carried a sheaf of papers and a roll of tape. She explained that she was putting notices on the doors of each condo in our building to advise of a temporary water shut-off Monday due to some repair work that was scheduled on the water supply line to her unit. Meeting her gave me a chance to ask about her kids and how they were doing with remote learning. She seemed eager to share her frustration. Her freshman son is taking six classes and not only is each teacher using a different platform for class assignments and such, one teacher has him bouncing around four! Her 8-year old daughter is plugging along but is really sad that she can’t chat with her friends before or after class.
Later as I was coming back from the mailbox, I ran into Paulette who lives across from us and down a bit. She retired a year ago and was still exploring what to do with all her free time when the pandemic changed everything. As we spoke, Paulette unloaded bags from a trip to Whole Foods. She had thought to break her grocery routine and pick up some items not carried at our local supermarket. The experience had shaken her—the store was very crowded and she said the young Amazon shoppers were careless about jamming into people. We talked about where we walk, and she inspired me to plan an outing at the Martinez Shoreline Park. It will be good to be outside in a different area.
Our condo has been home for thirty-five years. Although there were periods when I really wanted to move on, condo life fit us well overall. During our working years we both traveled constantly and since retirement we’ve been off on adventures at least four months of every year. The simplicity of cleaning out the fridge, trundling houseplants to our friend and neighbor Ginny, turning on the alarm system, and taking off has been ideal.
And now, everything is different it seems. Travel will be a memory and a fantasy for years perhaps. My husband’s knees are never going to be better than they are now. My hips click and my Achilles tendons throb. At some point, climbing stairs to arrive at our front door will not work for us. Storage space that was ample in our large condo, is inadequate now that we need to store a six-month supply of hand-sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, several gross of surgical masks, and 108 rolls of toilet paper. Turning my bathtub into a second pantry was a solution now regretted! We need a garage.
So, once again, we talk of selling and moving to a more practical home for this particular time of our lives. We have so many things to think about as we restart the discussion! House or ground floor condo? Stay in our beloved small city or move to a bigger city? Remain in California or relocate closer to family out of state? How do we leave our friends?
Today I realized that there are other factors crucial to our eventual decision and long-term happiness. We need to live in a place with close-by neighbors with whom we can share cookies and stories. And our future home must have a window that brings daily life in our neighborhood into clear view.