The Box up the Stairs, Part Three: All of My Friends Are Going to Be Witches
Our move to La Jolla in 1963 required significant adjustments; only intrepid Chippy took the changes in his sanguine stride. Chippy seemed not to miss the two acres of woods we had roamed together in Schenectady. He was a cat whose aptitudes inclined him equally to great prowess at hunting in the woods, sunning in a backyard, or lounging in an apartment. I was not quite so flexible.
My mother was not a data person. Never would it have occurred to her, and indeed it did not occur to her, to research an area and its cost of living before moving there. Thus La Jolla presented rather a bit of a sticker shock. The direct consequence of this was that we moved into an apartment above an art gallery at the busy commercial intersection of Pearl Street and La Jolla Boulevard.
Looking back, this should have been a fun and terrific urban adventure, but it was no such thing. None of the other kids lived in an apartment over an art gallery, and when anyone casually mentioned their backyard, my inference of inadequacy for lack of one transformed me into the incredible shrinking twelve-year-old.
We had been in the apartment a month when President Kennedy was shot. We were dismissed from school, and I ran up the stairs to the apartment, which had been suddenly transformed into the home I had always known and loved, and which seemed now to be the safest place in the world. My mother was crying, and Joe Dudley, who owned the vacuum store next to the art gallery below us, was in the street shouting “The Communists have killed our president!”
A year later, we owned a house with a — reverent pause — backyard. Chippy met me on our front lawn and walked me to the door when I came home from school. I played clarinet in the band. Life was normal, as much as it ever would be: La Jolla seemed almost like Schenectady, only with beaches, and we had Spanish in school instead of French. I was a strong walker, and La Jolla was a hilly place, and I walked and rode my bike to school, and to visit friends who lived in the Muirlands and on Mt. Soledad.
In the ninth grade, I took drama, but I refused to act in a play. I was so shy, I could barely stand to read aloud before the class. I helped direct our class production of Macbeth. My friends, Cynthia, Sallie, and Joanna, played the three witches. They were phenomenal. We all loved our drama teacher, Mrs. Bradshaw. Very sadly, Mrs. Bradshaw became the odd wife out in The Great Unitarian Wife Swap that swept through San Diego that year.
To be continued…