Friday, September 23, 2011
Commuting from work the other night I exited the freeway early to cruise our neighborhood. I passed the river, turned at the school and stopped by the park for a herd of dog walkers. In my corner of Los Angeles, the ratio of Chihuahuas to humans is something like 7000: 1. And in the fashion competition the dogs outdress the people with their studded collars, knit sweaters and pillbox hats jauntily titled to one side. If any coyotes came to my ‘hood they would dine very well if they didn’t mind swallowing doggie fabric, zippers and rhinestones.
Before I could move the car forward two boys dashed across the street in front of me. One looked to be nine-years-old, the other seven and both wore silky blue uniforms and huge, face-splitting smiles. The older one cradled a soccer ball, indicating he was either an excellent goalie or a lousy striker. As they ran past I noticed the backs of their jerseys both read “Perez”. How great to play soccer with your brother; to be near your family; to have a washer and dryer to clean sweaty uniforms.
My family didn’t live nearby and Mr. Wonderful’s lived even farther away, which meant we were free from nosy mothers, nosy in-laws and complicated Thanksgiving dinner plans. So we were happy. But it wasn’t like we disliked our families. Au contraire Mr. Wonderful and I still gabbed with our relatives through regular phone calls, emails and text messages because they were good people and good people are hard to find.
So every now and then when I saw two brothers in the park or two sisters shopping at the mall I longed for some old-fashioned, good-people family contact. It was in this mindset that I read an email from my older cousin’s son, Matt, a 23-year-old itching to leave the Midwest and move to the big city. Not the Big Apple but the Big Citrus “Orange” of Los Angeles, the 21st century locus where dreams, dreamers and folks on the make came for money, fame and a slice of the organic, fructose, silicone-implant life.
“All I need is a place to stay while I look for an apartment,” Matt wrote. “Can I stay w/ u?”
Mr. Wonderful read the email and cocked an eyebrow. “What’s your cousin’s kid to you? A second cousin or a cousin once removed?”
“Does it matter? He’s family,” I said. It was true. I didn’t know Matt well. He had grown up in a different city from me and his branch of the family didn’t come back to the homestead often. Although I did remember seeing him at my sister’s wedding when he was battling a particularly bad case of high school acne. So we had that in common.
Family is good people. Of course he could stay with us I decided and Mr. Wonderful agreed.
Just then my mother-in-law called to chat so I told her the Matt news.
“He’s moving in with you and my son in your brand new house?” she said shamelessly inserting her nose into my business.
“He’s not moving in, he’s just going to stay a few days.”
“Uh-huh,” she said sucking on a cigarette.
“Until he finds a place of his own.”
“I believe him.”
“Make sure you give him a move-out-by-this-date because if you don’t, he’ll never leave.”
Don’t you hate when your nosy mother-in-law is right?