Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Girls Next-Door

My mom Jane, our neighbor Judy, Alisa (age 7), Karla (age 19), and Nicole (age 9).
March 4, 1980 (Two days before we moved to Arizona)

For me, one of the best highlights of our trip was being reunited with friends with whom I'd had no contact for over 30 years. That is a whole story in itself!

I was born in Los Angeles, in the city of Hawthorne not too far from the Pacific Ocean. While I was still in kindergarten, my parents moved my baby brother LeRoy and me to Fresno, a large city in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley of Central California. We would be closer to extended family, and there were more job opportunities for my dad, who was only 25. Fresno is where I did most of my growing up. Then in July 1972, a month after I graduated from high school and two months before my 18th birthday, we relocated again to Southern California due to my dad's job as a Greyhound bus driver. 

This time our family (now 7 of us) settled into the small, hilly town of Yorba Linda in Orange County (birthplace of former President Richard Nixon). Our new house was brand-spanking-new, and so were all the houses in our newly established housing tract. No one who moved in was the "new neighbor," because we were all new!

A young couple named Judy and Dale moved into the house next-door to ours on the downhill side. They had an adorable toddler named Nicole, and they were expecting another. Sweet Alisa was born not long after we all settled into the neighborhood. I began babysitting their two little daughters regularly. Eventually, over the eight years that we were neighbors, my sister Karla became their usual sitter.

After Judy and her husband divorced, she went back to work. At that time my mother became Nicole and Alisa's daytime caregiver. By now, Judy was family and her daughters were like our little sisters. We spent a lot of time together! Thus it was very hard to leave them when our family made the decision to move to Mesa, Arizona in March of 1980.

Judy and the girls came to visit us in Mesa once, and Karla kept in touch with them by mail for a few years, but inevitably we all lost touch. Keep in mind that there were no cell phones and the cost of long-distance calls was prohibitive in those days. There was no Internet and no email, just slow letters that usually took 3-4 days to reach their recipients.

Fast forward to July 2014, 34 years after our move. I'd been thinking a lot about Judy, Nicole, and Alisa for a few weeks before it suddenly hit me that I might be able to find them on Facebook. So I did! Karla and I have been thrilled at this opportunity to get caught up with our long-lost friends, and I was even more thrilled when we arranged a get-together for my California visit! But that's at the end of this blog post, so you'll have to wait till we get there (or scroll ahead to peek)!

5 Oct 2014: Sunday morning at the resort.
Sarah, Chris, Danielle, Dylan, and Jacob watch General Conference.

The first weekends in April and October are special for those of us who are LDS (Mormon). A bi-annual General Conference is televised, consisting of five 2-hour sessions featuring speakers from the general authorities of our church, including our prophet, Thomas S. Monson. We were able to listen to 3 or 4 talks from the Saturday sessions as we drove cross-country, but reception was spotty.

But on Sunday morning, our first day at the resort, we were up by 9 a.m. to watch the early session on the flat-screen TV in our condo, via a hook-up to my laptop. Sarah had brought a "General Conference Bingo" game with her, and the kids were enthusiastically covering the pictures on their card with Skittles, which they were allowed to eat if they filled the whole card. Sarah won! Okay, so after she won, everyone else ate their Skittles, too. No self-control!

Hot tubs on the roof of the resort.

After conference, we all went down to the lobby for a free hot breakfast and a sales pitch. Not my favorite thing, but always well worth it. More on that later...

A view of California Adventure and Disneyland from the rooftop.

Jacob, Danielle, Chris, and Dylan decided to go put their feet in the pool while Sarah and I went to take care of some business. More on that later, too.

To the left, California Screamin' and Cars Land; Grizzly Peak and
Twilight Zone's Hollywood Tower of Terror smack dab in the middle!

When we were done with our errands, Sarah and I went back up to the rooftop where we had watched the Disneyland fireworks the previous night. We wanted to see how clear the view of Disneyland was during the daytime. It was pretty darn clear! We were a lot closer to the park than we'd realized in the dark!

Space Mountain with Sleeping Beauty Castle barely visible to the right of it;
and the Matterhorn at dead center.

It was a lot of fun to watch the fireworks, so we returned on Sunday night to see them again. Quite a crowd gathers to view it. We could even see the lower fireworks and flames from the Fantasmic show to the left of the fireworks program.

Our Yorba Linda home, from July 1972 to March 1980.
This picture was taken just days before we moved away, March 1980.

We napped a bit during the afternoon, and then we left the resort just before 3:00 to drive over to my old town of Yorba Linda. On our way to Anaheim the previous day, we'd driven right past the Imperial Highway exit to Yorba Linda, an exit I'd taken to get home many hundreds of times during 1972-80. It was tempting to make that turn then, but I reminded myself that we'd be back on Sunday to see my friends and my old home.

5 Oct 2014: Our old Yorba Linda home as it looks today.

When we arrived in my old neighborhood, we parked and I took pictures of my former home. It just didn't look the same to me, but I wasn't sure why until I got home and found a photo from when we lived in it. First of all, the colors are reversed. The trim is now light and the paint is dark, whereas in our day the trim was dark and the paint light. Also, the plants today are much more sparing than in my mom's lush garden. 

Most shocking, though, is the removal of much of my dad's handiwork. The split-rail fence, the cement borders around the trees (and the trees themselves), and the cement steps flanked by brickwork, all are gone. I may be biased, but I think my parents' landscaping was much more beautiful.

The view uphill from the street in front of our house. Quite a steep hill there!
5 Oct 2014

Judy tells me there have only been two more owners of our house since we moved away: the people who bought it from us, and then the people who live there now. It was a very nice 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom house that only cost my parents $32,000 ($350 monthly payment). I believe they sold it less than 8 years later for about $110,000.

The view downhill from the street in front of our house, 
looking toward the greenbelt where my brothers used to play ball. 
(They broke at least one window in someone's house.) It's fenced now.
That's Judy's house on the right, just below ours.

Judy's house on the left and mine on the right. 
The floor plans are almost identical, 
except ours had a laundry room and 4 bedrooms 
while hers had 3 bedrooms and no laundry room. 

I was surprised to learn that Judy still lived in the same house! Nowadays it's so unusual for people to stay put for that long. I moved so much during my youth (16 homes by the time I was 18) that I truly value putting down roots and staying there. I've lived in my current house for 21 years, since Sarah was 3 and Jacob was 2. My youngest, Dylan, has never lived anywhere else.

5 Oct 2014: Alisa, Judy, and Nicole all grown up!
Aren't they beautiful?

Returning to the same house where I used to babysit Nicole and Alisa just made our visit that much more fun! We spent 4 wonderful hours meeting each others' families, catching up, and reminiscing. We also learned that Judy and her daughters and grandchildren are blessed with a great deal of musical, artistic, and technological talent. Judy herself had some jaw-dropping paintings on display that I wouldn't mind hanging on my walls!

Judy and her husband Val, a very personable guy.

Me with those two sweet little girls!

Alisa and Nicole with some of their children.
Nicole has 2 girls: Lindsey and Lauren (that's Lauren on the right).
Alisa has 3 boys: Daniel, Sean, and Ryan (Ryan and Sean to the left).  

Dining on Judy's back patio: Jacob, Danielle, Chris, Sarah, and Dylan.
Alisa's and Nicole's kids came out and joined them when dinner was served,
leaving us "older" adults to visit in the dining room.

Judy, with the help of her girls, treated us to a chips-and-dip appetizer and a delicious dinner of spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread topped with Parmesan (mmm!), followed by a dessert of yummy cream pies. She cooked up a storm and must have slaved in the kitchen for hours. It was amazing, and we appreciated her efforts so much! It was so nice to eat a leisurely meal while talking, talking, talking!

The fence between Judy's backyard and ours is now hidden by these gorgeous trees.
Love the pink flowers!

But there once was a time when there were no trees and no fence.
That's my brother Jeff in February 1974, when he was 12 years old.
He's standing in our backyard. Judy's backyard is below.
Notice the 15-foot hill behind our house.

Sarah plays "Ave Maria" at everyone's request.
We also enjoyed Val's and Dylan's talents at the grand piano.

It was SOOO hard to leave at the end of the evening. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed being with anyone so much! And when we said good-bye, I learned what a true bear-hug feels like. All three of those ladies give amazing hugs! Alisa said, "Now that we have you here, I don't want to let you go," and I got all choked up. The only thing that could have made it a better evening would have been if Karla could have been there with us. But we'll all get together again someday, I know it.

I love this group!


Grandma Honey said...

I enjoyed reading all of this. Those names sound familiar to me…perhaps from letters? I wish someday you would do a take on your Ashlan house in Fresno.

Mary said...

I imagine I did mention the little girls next-door over 8 years of letter-writing. One of these days I need to come spend a week in Fresno, seeing family and friends, as well as visiting old sites like my last house there on Ashlan. Then you can bet I will blog all about it, Jill! Unfortunately, so far there are no WorldMark resorts in the Fresno area, darn it!