When I was nine, my family moved into a house where I lived until I married and moved out. It was a brand new house in a forest of almost-identical homes. A track home. When we first moved in, it was still neighbor to several orange groves. The orange grower slowly sold the remaining groves to developers until the only trees remaining were the stick-thin saplings held up with stakes planted in suburban lawns.
It was a nice house for the time. Three bedrooms, two baths, a fireplace and a two car garage. It had a dishwasher and a washer/dryer in the kitchen. Not a washer and dryer, but a washer/dryer, a two function machine that did not catch on. Technical difficulties, I’m told.
I lived there with my parents and sister. Eventually we added a cat with many kittens and a small dog.
The back yard was substantial. We lived at the end of a cul de sac. The yard was fenced and included a cement patio. My dad built a lounge chair, and my mother put a thick floral-printed cushion on top. A wooden picnic table and benches completed the patio furnishing.
My sister and I each had our own bedrooms for the first time. Three years older, she was glad not to have a room decorated with such juvenile things as dolls and stuffed animals. Her room was sophisticated, in keeping with her status as the older sister, and it was off limits to me. For some reason, she rarely invaded my room.
In the hall-way was a large black telephone seated on a special telephone stand. Our neighbor worked for the phone company and generously installed an extra long cord on the phone. It was so long, it reached into my sister’s bedroom. For private conversations, she said.
We lived in the middle of fast developing Southern California suburbia. Little was within walking distance. To get to work, grocery shopping, shopping-shopping, or my sister’s high school you needed a car or a bus.
My school was one of the few destinations an easy walk away. Like the house, the school was new. I was in the first class to attend. I became a cheerleader. Yes, this is not metaphoric, but literal. As I got older, I learned that admitting that you had been a cheerleader in middle school was not necessarily something to be proud of. But it was part of my twelfth year and I will admit it here.
My sister completed high school, went to work, married and left home. A few years later I left for college, then married and moved out. Our parents continued to live in the house for a few more years. With the death of my grandfather and my grandmother’s declining health, they sold the house and moved into her more spacious house to care for her.
The house and the neighborhood fell on hard times. A fire in the San Bernardino Mountains threatened it one summer, but it escaped. It was eventually brought down by the loss of hope. Suburbia was not always an easy place to live.