Thursday, February 11, 2010

Midwestern Beach Bum

My grandparents moved to Florida when I was four years old, and I spent many a summer vacationing in Tampa. The primary reason of course was to visit my mother's parents, but I think if they had lived in Maine, we would not have visited as much as we did. My mom has been obsessed with “the beach” for as long as I can remember. Her idea of “going to the beach” is getting up at 7am, packing sandwiches and drinks, and heading to the beach until about 3pm. I’m not sure how the skin-that’s-able-to-tan gene avoided me SO COMPLETELY, but let’s just say that I endured a lot of sunburn and a lot of green aloe vera gel for my mom to feed her beach addiction.

When it came time for us to leave Florida, she would cry the entire day before and for the first half of our first driving day home. I always thought it was because she was leaving her mom, and as an eight-year-old kid, I couldn’t imagine the thought of leaving my mom for a year at a time. As I’ve gotten older, I realize it was more that she was not in love with her life in Ohio. And who can blame her? Have you been to Ohio?

When we weren’t in Florida, we lived in a house that used seashells as decoration. Not only was the bathroom done in a beach theme, but starfish and sand dollars could be found in various parts of the house, as well as cross-stitched beach scenes. My mom was a Midwestern beach bum.

It wasn’t so much my mother’s choice to spend her life in Ohio. When she was 20 years old, she moved to Los Angeles with several of her friends. Her dream was that of almost everyone who moves here that young – she wanted to be a movie star. She spent a rainy six weeks in Culver City, in a small apartment with five other people. From what I’ve heard of this time in her life, she didn’t work or do much other than smoke weed with her pals. What she thought was homesickness turned out to be morning sickness – she found out she had a little Katie kickin’ around in her belly. She didn’t want a bastard of a kid wanted the best for me, so she moved back home to Ohio, married my dad, had me, and began her life of suburban normalcy.

A series of events occurred that led her to move here to Los Angeles a year and a half ago. She moved in with us, and when most people find that out, they exclaim (aghast, incredulously, full of pity), “your mom lives with you?!”, to which I reply, “You don’t understand – my mom is not like other moms.” Translation: “My mom is way cooler than your mom or anyone’s mom you’ve ever met or will ever meet.” My mom is hilarious. She can drink you under the table, beat you at Euchre and pool, but still give you a mom hug – a hug where you know no matter how upset you are, everything will be okay.

It should be noted here that my family does not have money. My mom moved in with us because she left a $8.00 an hour job and a mountain of debt at home. My family has never had a lot of options in anything, but they did a damn good job of never making me or my sisters realize that.

Back to her living with us – the thing is, if we had a bigger place, she could stay with us forever. But we have one thousand square feet, and two bedrooms, with four adults (me, Gina, my sister Jess, and my mom). The idea was always for Mom and Jess to move out eventually. I think Jess got home late one night and my mom realized she couldn’t expect her 23-year-old daughter to follow her rules, and that got the ball rolling on her move. In fact, it happened in about a week’s time – she said she was ready to go, she found a place, and we were moving her in.

My mom has never, ever lived on her own. She’s not even an experienced mover. She grew up in the same house I grew up. She’s never had to find a place of her own. Naturally, I assumed I’d be driving around on Saturdays with her looking for places. So when she told me she found a place and she was thinking of taking it, I was surprised… and a little worried, to be honest. The place is in San Pedro, and San Pedro’s not necessarily known for being Pleasantville. But she said she felt safe in the neighborhood, and at 52 years old, she has a bit of intuition.

When we arrived to her place on Saturday to move her in, the first thing I noticed was that the outside of the building looked kind of run-down. Upon closer inspection, it just needs a coat of paint and some landscaping. Her apartment is small, but completely appropriate for her, with fresh paint, new appliances, and new carpeting. It’s a courtyard style apartment, and there’s room for her to plant some flowers right outside her door. I felt really good about her being there when the on-site maintenance guy helped us move most of her big stuff in. Once we got everything moved in, we were eating pizza when there was a knock at her door. A 60-something woman stood there with cupcakes – she wanted to welcome my mom, and she told us she’d lived there for 35 years and raised her son there, and she just loved the place, and if my mom ever needed anything, she should feel free to ask. I’ve lived in seven different apartment buildings in LA, and no one has EVER knocked on my door to even say hello after I’ve moved in.

I’ve always adored my mom. I’ve never had a bad relationship with her. But I’ve also never really felt the pride I felt on Saturday when we moved her in to a place she found on her own, a place that she really liked, and a place for which she will be solely held financially responsible. A tiny little apartment she can call her own, with a view of the San Pedro Harbor, and just a five-minute walk from the beach.

No comments: