For years after we moved into our house in Eugene, we knew our next-door neighbors only peripherally. We chatted with Carole while she pulled weeds from the vinka patch between our houses. And Dick became known by our kids as that “Funny Man,” (not in that way) because of how he would tease and joke with them. Their teenage girls grew up, graduated college, and got married before we got very close with the Steins, and then we wished we’d gotten to know each other better sooner.
Dick was an English lit professor at UO. Carole was the librarian at Tobi’s middle school. When they both retired several years ago, they decided to sell the house they’d had for 35 years and move back to Southern California where they’d both grown up and be near where one of their daughters was raising two of their four grandsons.
Ever since they moved, they’ve asked when we were coming to visit. I don’t know if they ever really expected us to come, but when they heard we were going to be in the area, they were eager to see us and insisted we spend at least one night.
Kate and I weren’t in top form, coming off of three days at Disneyland, so it was great to be pampered with homemade meals and a guest room. Dick took Bailey and me for a walk around their classy Brentwood neighborhood that afternoon, and the next morning, after breakfast, we all went for a walk on a beautiful neighborhood street in Santa Monica lined with Moreton bay fig trees — huge canopy trees whose expansive, above-ground roots wind like Tarzan vines around the sidewalks. We ogled the multi-million dollar homes, and I’m afraid I insulted Dick greatly by admitting that I really didn’t care for the “midcentury modern” style homes.
We followed that walk with a stroll along the Santa Monica promenade, a park that sits on a long strip of cliff-top above the beach. It was great to walk and chat just like we had for years. They invited us to stay longer, but Kate and I were both ready for a little alone time in Bessie to gather ourselves before meeting another friend in San Diego.