The kids and I woke up on July 4th and borrowed Dad's trusty minivan to head on down to our beloved South Orange/Maplewood. Once we got there, we got our priorities in order. Pizza.
Roman Gourmet. (The Trat was closed.) Pizza, ravioli, slushies. Heaven.
I wish that I hadn't lost all those pictures. I just have that one since I immediately posted it to Facebook to enrage all my displaced New Jersey girlfriends. (Janice immediately one-upped me by uploading a picture of a sesame-seed bagel with a schmear and lox. She was in NJ too.)
We took pictures of the kids in front of the shark in front of our favorite fishmonger and escaped into the cool of the local wine store. We headed down the street to the ice cream store.
And her folks, Elizabeth and Curtis. Elizabeth is one of my favorite mom friends, and Curtis and I have worked together for years, so we had plenty of fun gossip to catch up on. I can't wait for them to have a family visit to LA.
We went to the Brody-Kaplans, and had many furry hugs with Charlie the Dog, who has entered his thoughtful middle age. We all changed into our bathing suits and headed off for the South Orange Pool, the hub of our social life for the past 7 years.
Now, on the 4th, there are no guest passes allowed, but all residents of South Orange are welcomed into the pool. You don't need to have the $25 pool passes; you just need to have proof of residency.
Um. I might have still had my NJ drivers license. Just maybe. (Maybe the thousands of dollars of comic collections I donated to the library outweigh my deception?)
When we were there, we hugged our friends, watched my children disappear with their long lost buddies, and I fended off tons of double takes and "hey, didn't you...?"
Yes, we did. And here's what I've realized after almost a year here. It's pretty hard to complain about living in Southern California. It's really spectacularly beautiful. We live in a small town (100,000 residents, but still a small town) and we are about a five minute drive from the following:
-- the media district, which includes the WB Lot, the Disney Lot, the ABC building, and the NBC Complex.
-- downtown: a street full of independent businesses, three well-appointed movie theaters, an awesome farmer's market, a beautifully designed police station.
-- the mountains, where you can hike for five minutes and see craggy hills in every direction but no sign of civilization.
-- the history of the American entertainment industry. Almost everyone we know here is tangentially involved with the industry, and those folks, whether they be ex-dressers or union carpenters or screenwriters or showrunners or just "ex-movie-folk," everyone has a STORY.
Here's what I'm trying to say. I am admitting it: I love living here. This is my home. I'm writing this a couple days after I got home, and yes, this is my home now. I love the towns, the (admittedly brief) history, the landscapes, the drives to the beaches, the beaches and the sea water life. I love the folks that send their kids to my kids' schools. I am so grateful for those who have made us feel welcome: my Jersey Girls, my Grandview friends, and the DC Entertainment Bachelors.
The phrase I repeated more than anything during my two weeks on the East Coast: "It's hard to complain about living in Southern California."
The only thing I miss is living in South Orange/Maplewood.
We went back to the Brody-Kaplans and ordered from Tung Tin, and ate a stupid amount of food. I miss East Coast crappy Chinese food.
We took off to Maplewood, where we met Redwines, Spanglers, Brewers, Diegnans, Windaus, and many more long lost friends to watch fireworks. I spent the whole time taking pictures of my friends' faces in the fireworks' light.
We headed back to the Brody-Kaplans and nobody went to bed.
Izzy, Arlo and Charlie.
We've always joked that Lucy is the missing Brody-Kaplan. Robyn and Sarah are her godmothers and my best friends who happen to be married to each other. We've been welcomed at family functions, been included on both the Jewish and Chinese family traditions. One of Lucy's first words was "dayenu," singing along with Sarah on her lap at Passover. She looks more like them than Evan and I. She's been Lily's apprentice for years and it was so lovely to see them fall back into the same old patterns.
Hours and hours later, Arlo passed out. Next to me and Charlie Dog.
The next day was packed. First: bagels at Hot Bagels Abroad. Now, we all know that the best bagels are from Sonny's up the street. But here's what Arlo wants:
"Gimme a bacon-egg-n-cheddar-cheese onna hard roll, untoasted, salt and pepper, no ketchup."
"I'd like a lightly toasted plain bagel with a schmear of cream cheese on both sides with some crisp bacon."
Arlo was stupendously happy. I ate his leftovers. Seriously, I love living in LA, but can you imagine walking into a LA joint and asking for a bagel (CARBS) with cream cheese (FAT) and bacon (SUPER BAD FATS)?
We went to Playhouse. Every single one of my kids were visibly emotional there. Lisa met us at the door. The kids immediately went to their tile on the wall. We pointed out Om's and Omala's and Radha's tiles, and we told Lisa how much we miss them. And then we went to the classroom.
Arlo and Laura ran toward each other in slow motion. And then they hugged and looked each other in the eyes and talked, and I cowered in a corner and sobbed.
Oscar went out to the playyard, where he got a lovely hug from Anita, who was his teacher for two years five years ago. She has taught all three of our kids, but I think she loves Oscar most of all. I got a grand hug from my friend Caroline and gossiped with her while watching kids that I knew for years and years play. Maria cuddled the Goose and then carried on with her class. We spent a couple hours playing with homemade playdough, making complicated train layouts, and making complicated meals in the kitchen. And then Laura sang the clean up song, and we cleaned up.
Playhouse was the best place to raise my kids. Grandview (the Goose's preschool) works as well. At this point of my life, still mired in preschool and elementary school drama, I am so grateful for the ladies that guided my kids through preschool and continue to guide me through parenting.
We left Playhouse and went to my friend Christina's house. Here's the thing about their family: her son Jackson and Oscar liked each other fine. Arlo likes their house because Christina has created a stylish yet family friendly house with toys and waterguns. But The Goose and Audrey adore each other. Ten months after moving away, The Goose was still chatting away on her Princess phone with Audrey. Her baby is named Audrey. She talks about "her Audrey" every single day.
We headed back to the Brady-Kaplans, and relaxed.
We made our way to the Windau-Rinaldis.
Oscar and I met Jennifer and Lucas the morning of Lucas' 2nd birthday. (Haven't I told this story a million times on my blog?) We were watering out flowers, and we both had 2yo boys, were expecting 2nd kids, and were both print art directors.
Years later, our sons adore each other, and our daughters dote on each other. And I am so grateful to have Jennifer and Jorg in my life.