Friday, January 8, 2010

Paradigm Shift

I have lived in Temecula for 12 years now. Twelve years. That's a long time to live in one place. Within a year or two of moving here, I discovered something marvelous about my neighborhood: there are things that I can count on. Predictable things that happen every day -- like clock work.

It begins in the morning as I pull my car out of my driveway. Eden is in the front row passenger's seat. As we round the corner, he says under his breath in a Napoleon Dynamite-ish sort of way: "Yes!" He says that because he sees the boy who waters his lawn every morning. He stands in the exact same place at the edge his yard with a garden hose in his hands, and gives us a friendly nod as we drive up the hill. Actually, Lawn Boy is now Lawn Guy. He began watering just after his family moved into the neighborhood. He was about 9 years old then. Now he's about 20.... and he's still watering.... every day (except maybe Sunday and incliment weather, which we also count on.) I wonder as we pass...... "Why is he watering when he should be in school? Why doesn't he just turn on the sprinklers?" Sometimes I wonder these thoughts out loud, as do my kids. We do it every day.

As we continue up the street, we turn into the neighborhood of a kid we take to school every morning. There on the sidewalk, moving slowly, arm in arm, are 4 Asian grandmothers, smiling and laughing like school girls (minus the pigtails). They all have short grey hair and wear quilted jackets in the winter to keep them warm. I love the anticipation of seeing their faces -- the wrinkled smiles, and twinkling eyes -- the camaraderie of friends who seem like they've known each other for a long, long time. "Maybe they are sisters. Maybe they have stories to tell about lands far away...." I wonder this every day.

I pull up near the middle school and see the crossing guard. The carpool cheers and starts to sing "Big Shoe Lady" which is a ditty we made up about her. Big Shoe Lady loves to wear some type of 5-inch platform shoe (usually a tennis shoe), every day. She has quite a selection. "Where does she find all those foamy platforms? How does she cross the street so gracefully in those gigantic shoes?" I wonder, as the car door slams, and the kids run across the street before Big Shoe Lady waves my car through the intersection. Big Shoe Lady is one great crossing guard. The kids love her. I love her too.
Later in the day as I'm making my rounds .... grocery store, dry cleaners, Jack-in-the Box for a beverage..... I see a married couple: "the Patriotic Partners" out for a run. They always coordinate in some type of red, white, and blue athletic wear. They run side by side, which to a non-runner like me, seems pretty hard to do. I could never keep in sync with my husband for five miles running. Never in a million years -- unless I get bionic legs... then it might be possible. "How do they do that every single day, even in the rain? Is he a retired military officer?" I wonder.
Finally, in the evening, I look out the window and see a small gang of children sitting in my driveway. None of them are mine, but somehow, my driveway has become the resting place for kids on wheels. The faces have changed from year to year. Old ones move out and new ones take their place, but they are always there, with bikes, or scooters, or skateboards. I like to listen to their conversations, which unusually revolve around getting someone in the group to go inside and ask for snacks. I hear this every day. It makes me smile.
I count on these things, the constants in my life. They bring comfort to my days. But, in the last few months, my Temecula Universe shifted ..... ever so slightly. There were signs:

One morning, I pulled out of my driveway and Eden yelled: "Stop Mom!!!!!" I looked in my rear view mirror and there, right behind my car, was a guy with a black beanie on his head and a red phone in his hands. He was texting messages as he walked... oblivious to the fact that he had almost been run over. "It's Lawn Guy!!!!!" shrieked Eden, "Only he's not on the lawn, he's walking!!!!!" Sure enough, it was Lawn Guy. He walked by without eye contact, or his usual friendly nod. He was absorbed in the world of texting. "Why is he not on his lawn???? I've never seen him move!! I wondered to myself. "Is he ok????? Should I be worried?????"

I pulled into the neighborhood of our carpoolee. The sidewalk was empty.... no laughing smiles of the sister-friends walking arm in arm. "Where were the apple doll faces of the Asian Grandmothers?????"

Later in the week...... a City truck was parked in front of the middle school. Men were jack-hammering through the concrete to install a traffic signal. Before I knew it, a pole was stuck firmly in the ground, lights were turned on, and kids began crossing the street by themselves. After years of escorting back-packed hoards of children with her red Stop sign, Big Shoe Lady was gone, just like that.
A few days the evening after school, my driveway was empty. No bikes, no scooters, no kids at which to yell: "Move your stuff out of the way so I can park!"
And today, while out and about, I saw the Patriotic Partners standing still at the side of the road. They were face to face, smiling, looking into each others eyes. Suddenly, they embraced and gave each other an oh-so-tender kiss. It was magical to be there at that exact moment. It brought tears to my eyes to witness the sweetness between a couple that has crossed my path for over 12 years. I knew they not only loved each other, they liked each other too. They parted, and continued on. But, instead of running ... they walked.

Things have shifted -- the things I thought were predictable. Lawn Guy grew up and stepped off the grass, Big Shoe Lady put her Stop sign away, and the neighborhood kids moved indoors to play WII. My world is a little off kilter. Growing up, slowing down, leaving home, school, dating, marriage, jobs, kids, retirement.... death, these things happen to us all. But, I know that change is good. Sometimes it takes a little getting used to, but when we acclimate, it brings new people into our lives, and new adventures, and new things to anticipate. And, it forces us to move -- hopefully in a direction that is good.


Chantel said...

I love the jogging couple! I think they hug and kiss after every run and usually hold hands too while they walk to cool down. I worry every time I see one without the other. They are the sweetest!

Lanie Ree said...

I was just stopping by, thinking about following (I am trying to win your Giveaway). But then I got caught up in your stories. And I can't wait to read more!

Lyndsay said...

This is a wonderful post!!

livingingraceland said...

We have boxer-man in our neighborhood as I always see him walking his dog in his boxers. Last week they were sort of bunched up. Not a pleasant sight ;)