I’m going to take you back in time because I’m feeling a bit nostalgic about why and how we land at the places we do.
When my husband and I were first married in 1980, we lived in a tiny, one bedroom apartment in San Francisco’s Sunset district where our only windows opened up onto an adjacent brick wall, and we could hear streetcars rumbling by outside at all hours of the day and night.
Yet, I was happy as a clam. We were young and resilient, with dreams of simply being together and starting a family. The starting a family part came really fast, and we knew that the one bedroom apartment wouldn’t work much longer.
My husband came home one day to announce that his brother Bob’s friend had a family home for rent in “The Sunset”. Off we trotted, smiling and optimistic, to a two bedroom rental with a wide open floor plan and lots of windows letting in light. It was an answer to our prayers. Our three children were born in the five years we lived in this corner house. Many families found their homes in The Sunset after World War II, including my husband’s family. He was one of ten children, but his was not the only big family in the neighborhood. It was the Baby Boom!
A snapshot of San Francisco’s Sunset district, so named because it was in the western section and had views of the sun setting over the ocean every day, at least when fog wasn’t lying low and heavy:
One day in June 1986, while I was baking a birthday cake for hubby (with a 5, 3 and 2 year old at my ankles), I got a visit from my landlord. He announced he was selling the house, so off we went to the classifieds, looking for houses to rent in the Sunset. We wanted to stay there because our older son was slated to begin kindergarten in the fall at the same Catholic school my husband had attended, but it was not meant to be.
While I prepared the cake, I started to cry. Tears dropped into the batter; I had not expected this, and as soon as I finished the cake I dived aggressively into scouring ads for rentals. I wanted a solution and I wanted it quick!
Later in the week, my husband came home one evening to tell me he ran into his brother Bob and Bob’s best friend at the local hangout, Fahey’s Irish Tavern. The friend just happened to have a home for rent: three bedrooms in a peaceful little cul-de-sac in Pacifica, Ca, a 20 minute drive away. Although my sister lived there, I didn’t really want to move to Pacifica, but all of a sudden our dilemma of where to live was immediately solved.
I dusted off some memory cells and recalled a distant time when I was nine years old and my family had driven from Arizona to California in 1963 to start a new life. My parents were talking to realtors and looking for a house to rent. I saw a brochure on Pacifica, noted its lure of beaches, horse corrals, and golf course and asked my Dad if we could move there. I guess this Midwestern girl had the heart of a California beach girl because this seemed like heaven to me:
We didn’t move to Pacifica in 1963, but the future held out a another set of cards and I was destined to live in that town. In 1986, it ended up being the best thing that happened to us, and it was all out of my hands pretty much. All I had to was accept and take the steps.
We lived in that Pacifica rental for a year and were very happy there. There was a hiking trail just steps outside the door, and the cul-de-sac was perfect for the kids. Life was good and we settled in…until my wonderful Father decided it was time (with heavily dropped hints from yours truly) that we become homeowners and offered to help with a down payment.
The house hunt didn’t go so smoothly; we simply couldn’t find the right fit. Until one day, a neighbor from down the street came up to talk to my husband. He was selling his house and he had an assumable Veteran’s loan which made the house buying process practically seamless. We didn’t have to worry about applying for loans or coming up with a big down payment. It was another answer to our prayers. Of course, any worrying and hand wringing I had been going through was for naught. Things were resolved, in spite of myself! All I had to was accept and take the steps.
The five of us lived in that 1100sf, 3 bedroom, one bath rancher on a quiet street, and were content for 7 years until we accepted the fact that the home had a dampness issue causing respiratory issues in my kids and me every winter. We began the search for another home in a sunnier, dryer section of Pacifica.
The home we moved to in 1994 was 2,000sf with four bedrooms, two full baths, and a half bath. We stayed there until we sold it to our middle son in 2014. My husband moved 500 miles away to begin retired life in a Sun City 55+community, where his brother Bob also lived. (Yes, the same brother who was the link to home opportunities each and every time we needed it!) I still worked and lived with my son and family. Life was great – I commuted between the Bay Area and our retirement home, and eventually got a little apartment down the street. I wanted my daughter-in-law to be queen of her own home and not have a mother-in-law under foot.
For those who follow me, you may be aware that I’ve debated giving up the apartment, see Split in Two (when no decision is a decision). Both my husband and I went back and forth: let’s give it up, let’s not. My head was spinning and I couldn’t make a decision, and figured I would simply need to wait it out. Any time I thought I had come close to a decision, my husband would agree, and then the next day he would wake up and offer a new view as to why we should hold off. Even he admitted that it was not an easy decision and one we shouldn’t treat lightly.
Since I couldn’t seem to make a firm decision one way or another, I would wait for a sign.
“…I hate to wait. I struggled, prayed for guidance, weighed the pros and cons. The answer was always the same: wait, do nothing yet, the time will come. When my thinking becomes distorted by trying to force solutions, I probably won’t get the results I seek. As the saying goes, when in doubt, don’t. Guide me in all I do to remember that waiting is the answer to some of my prayers.” From the book Courage to Change, page 37
Follow the example of little children — trust, faith, innocence, acceptance:
Grandkids loving life in the green belts:
The sign finally came. I received a text from a family member saying she would need my help getting through a challenging period and could I move in with her to help out for six months. Of course someone saying that they needed me was like heavenly music to my ears.
What a perfect excuse to give up the apartment! I didn’t have to do a thing. Higher Power had it all sorted out and all I had to was listen and go along if I wanted to, and simply take the next right step.
Not forcing things to happen, but staying patient and trusting: not always easy but if one can pull it off, it usually pays off with surprising dividends, far better than anything I could conjure up with my limited understanding.
Speaking of life’s surprises, I didn’t think that this beach loving girl could settle comfortably into a gated desert retirement community, but Sun City Palm Desert has exceeded my expectations, and I love it. There’s good reasons it’s been named one of the top eight places to retire to in America:
I have to admit I am so happy about this turn of events (giving up the apartment), and even though I’ll have to put retired life in my Sun City community on hold, it’s only temporary, and at the end of the day, I get to help out a family member in need, and be near my grandchildren and 88 year old Mother for an extended period.
I’ll also be present when my 9th grandchild is born next year, and I’ll be pretty much living the same kind of life I’ve been living for 8+ years, commuting between Norcal and Socal. Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed. I’ve accepted a new job as a live-in Nanny!
If I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming at times, I reflect back at the trajectory of twists and turns in my life and realize that it’s all had a purpose…and I’ve been in the right place, each and every time.
The color green is definitely enhanced by a good, rainy winter:
I’m so glad that with each change, I’ve tried to water the grass right where I landed. It’s true that the grass is not greener next door; instead, if we look down, it’s greener right under our own feet. What makes all the difference is our attitude and willingness to add daily TLC and a healthy sprinkling of water.
When you look back at your life, do you find that it’s met or exceeded your expectations?
Wishing you all peace and acceptance of life’s twists and turns,