Apparently, Ellin’s suggestion to share a joyful memory struck a chord, though Sue’s reminiscence, as she said to me when she sent it, is not without its sorrow. I think that is often true. Finding the joy without denying the sorrow is our challenge.

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November 24, 2020

Careful what you ask for
by Sue Robin, Los Angeles, California

I have taken up the gauntlet and will share a bit of joy from long ago.

Nature has always called to me. I remember as a child taking family drives on the Ventura Freeway heading north towards Ventura. In those days, before Topanga Canyon Boulevard, there were orange groves, and after, no houses or malls. One could see the rolling green hills dotted with oak trees in spring or the wheat-colored ones in summer and fall. A kind of peace would come over me—even in the backseat with three siblings!

There was another drive we would often take from our tract home in Van Nuys into the city to see my Great Aunt Birdie. My mom didn’t learn to drive until I was eight so that pegs the time around 1955. She would drive down Victory Blvd to Laurel Canyon and then up the winding road. My face would be glued to the window as we drove the beautiful oak-filled streets.

The houses there were not like those in our cookie cutter neighborhood. Each one unique, some tiny little cabins and some bigger mansions. On one corner was the Houdini Estate and, right across the street, a log cabin was tucked against the hill.  There were houses on stilts, some that sprawled across their lots, little streets to the left and the right filled with houses with long, steep staircases leading to the front door. There was a tiny neighborhood store that was quaint back then, and still stands. Each and every time I made that drive with my mom, I would say out loud, “This is where I want to live when I grow up!”

Fast forward to 1991, in my mid-forties, having spent the last several years living in a house up seventy-two stairs in Topanga Canyon, with my son. Topanga was a wild, beautiful canyon that mirrored my dream home of Laurel Canyon. Unfortunately, it lacked the accessibility of Laurel Canyon. It was a long shlep to the big supermarket and my office in the Valley, and an even longer schlep to Santa Monica where Seth went to school and I had two part time gigs.

In May of 1991, Russ came into my life. Just meeting him brought a smile to my face. For the first year and half, he drove back and forth from his home to mine without complaint. Then, my son decided he wanted to live with his dad to get to know him better. That was difficult, and definitely not what I wanted as a mom, but as a therapist I knew he was old enough and wise enough to make that decision and I would not stand in his way.

My Sweetheart helped turn what was painful loss into a dream fulfilled when we decided to move in together into his home in Laurel Canyon. It has been almost 28 years since I moved in and the canyon continues to take my breath away each day. And Russ, too.

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