Mr. & Mrs. Frank

I admit it: I love making grown men cry. Mind you, I didn’t know this about myself. But apparently, I do. It’s not that I go around whacking grown men over the head so I can squeeze some tears out of them. I like them to be moved so much that they cry.

Right now, we’re in the midst of closing escrow on a beautiful house. The closing date keeps getting pushed back–loan applications are not a fun process. As part of the bid package, our real estate agent suggested that we write a letter to the owners, telling them how much we love the place.

This wouldn’t be much of a stretch. We love the place. LOVE it. You see, the Mr. & Mrs. Frank who inspired the title of this post are the owners of this 1940s ranch house with a startlingly large backyard. They bought the place in 1947, and lived in it their entire life, until then entered a retirement home about three months ago.

They raised three kids in the house. They loved the house. You can see how much they loved it. You can see it in the unique built-ins, the meticulously mowed lawns, and quality roof the put in about five years ago.

So late that night, after we came back from our first day of house-hunting, I sat and drafted this letter.

Every homebuyer dreams of walking into a home and instantly envisioning a future there. I must admit that is exactly what happened when my husband, toddler daughter, and I stepped into your house.

Once my daughter P’s feet hit the ground, she was off and exploring the beautiful backyard. As a writer with a historic preservation background, I completely appreciated the wood paneling and detailed care (and love) poured into every carved surface. And my husband, an Italian artisan cabinetmaker, was abuzz with the potential of the little shed as his future woodshop (and respite from the womenfolk!).

The beauty of your house is that we can fully envision our future in it while appreciating your past. The meticulous workmanship inside the house and the painstaking landscaping work outside are unique and need a family that appreciates their uniqueness. I fully believe that we are that family.

I hope that you consider our offer and rest assured that your house will be as loved in the future as it was in the past.

I meant every word of it. It turns out, the letter made the Franks’ son cry. Mrs. Frank, who is apparently suffering from Alzheimer’s in her older age, had a minute of lucidity, read the letter, called her son, and demanded that he sell us the house.

So I’m crossing my fingers, knocking on wood, touching iron (the Italian way)…doing everything I can to send good karma to the bank so that they’ll give us this gorgeous house. And if we do get it, you can be sure that this grown woman will be shedding tears of joy.

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thirtysomething

I have a serious love/hate relationship when it comes to P and TV. On the one hand, I realize how easy–oh how easy–it is to turn it on when she’s eating and let her be distracted enough that she actually eats. On the other, I realize that it’s a much too easy route to take, and not constructive in the long run.

Long story short, we try not to let her watch TV very much, and hope that my parents (who look after her during the day) do the same.

At the same time, my own relationship with TV is not very conflicted. I love television. Love love love it. When my family moved to the U.S. from Iran, I was nine and my sister was thirteen. We pretty much learned to speak English (and well, I might add), by watching The Facts of Life and CHIPs.

I’m not a huge fan of reality TV…I really don’t understand the need for some people to air every skeleton in their closet on TV, I don’t really think people can fall in love in the three months The Bachelor is shot, and feel no need to see super rich women be catty to one another.

I do, however, love a good quality drama. Last night, NBC aired the last ever episode of Friday Night Lights, a show that made this California girl want to utter the words “Texas forever!” I’m still getting over the idea of not having those characters visit on a weekly basis. Sigh.

Recently, I went through the five seasons of The Wire in about four months. I waited with bated breath for the mail to arrive, and was very diligent in getting those Netflix DVDs back in less than 24 hours.

There is another series, though, that I have a soft spot for: thirtysomething.

It first aired on ABC in 1987, and ran for four seasons. I was only 10 when it premiered, and 14 when it went off the air. I vaguely remember the buzz surrounding it, and I may have even watched a few episodes. But I was definitely the wrong demographic.

I think anyone in their late twenties to their early forties can watch thirtysomething and feel an instant bond with one or more of the characters.

By the time you actually hit your thirties, you’ve probably known people who have cheated on their significant others, divorced, been diagnosed with a horrible disease, had to choose between a career and a family, made it big in the world, didn’t really make it, are still looking for that special someone, etc.

Thirtysomething portrays all those scenarios with grace, portraying well-rounded characters that could be your friends. They all go through life experiences that could very well happen to you.

I was talking to a friend a while back, and out of the blue she said, “You know what show I’ve been really getting into? Thirtysomething.”

“OMG me too! The show is FANTASTIC!”

“I know,” said my friend, “it just…I don’t know, it just feels really honest.”

Our conversation about the show pretty much petered out after that, like there was not much more to say. And there wasn’t. It’s a beautifully honest show that makes you, well, maybe be a little bit honest with yourself. And that’s a pretty big claim for a show to make.

OLIM

One of the best parts of living in the Bay Area is a thing called Casual Carpool. Here’s how it works: in various parts of the East Bay (Berkeley, Oakland, etc.), there are designated Casual Carpool pick-up spots. You wait in line at the spot, and pretty soon a car will show up. You get in, wait for a third passenger, and head to San Francisco, where you’ll be dropped off at a designated spot in SOMA (South of Market, for non-Bay Area folk).

Before you start imagining serial killers picking up innocent victims, let me assure you that this is an entrenched culture here. People have been doing it for years. There’s even a strict etiquette.

The first few times I was a little giddy, stifling my giggles as I got into a complete stranger’s car, said “Good morning,” and looked out the window. It was pretty much everything I had been taught NOT to do. After the first few times, I was a pro.

The reason why people use Casual Carpool is, of course, convenience: it’s convenient for the driver, who gets to use the carpool lane on the Bay Bridge, avoiding upwards of an hour of traffic, and it’s convenient for the rider, who gets a fast, cheap ride across the Bay.

Before July 1, 2010, it was convenient for the driver for another way, too: people who used the carpool lane on the bridge didn’t have to pay the toll. Starting July 1, 2010, however, carpool drivers were charged $2.50 for the ride (compared to the normal $6).

The change definitely posed a quandary. Before drivers were charged for the toll, riders didn’t feel the need to pay the driver anything. Hey, he was driving across the Bridge anyway, right? I’m saving him the toll money and time!

After the change, it was a free for all. Some riders offered drivers $1 for the toll (my preferred method), and some didn’t. Some drivers refuse to even think about taking the toll, pretty much thinking that the saved time is worth more than the $1 payment (my favorite drivers).

Some people attach a passive-aggressive note on the seat with a cup, pretty much asking for a contribution, but not enforcing.

Then there’s the Old Lady in the Mercedes (I’ll call her OLIM for short). The first time I got in her car, she asked for a $1.25 contribution before my butt-cheeks hit the seat. Thankfully, I had exact change.

She ended up being a regular at my stop, and I ended up riding in her car three or four times. She changed the enforced payment to a $1, probably because people were fishing around for pennies at the bottom of their bags to get the needed 25 cents.

The last time I rode with OLIM was the most memorable. I got into the backseat (the first passenger can choose the front or back, and I generally ride in the back because I carry my computer and a gym bag), and we waited for the third passenger.

A pleasant young man got into the front seat after a few minutes, and said hello.

OLIM: “That will be a dollar.”

PYM (Pleasant Young Man): “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, I only have a $100 bill.”

Me in the back (MITB), thinking to myself, “OH SNAP!” as my jaw dropped.

OLIM: “That’s no problem. I have change. When we stop I’ll give it to you.”

PYM: “Um…OK.”

MITB: Jaw practically dragging on the beautiful Mercedes leather seats.

The drive across the Bay Bridge was long, silent, and awkward.

We got to the designated stop, and OLIM hopped out of the driver’s seat, went back to the trunk, and brought back $99 in change.

I guess there’s a reason she’s driving a Mercedes and I’m in a Honda.

Adventures in Single Parenthood

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are both good and fine, but I am a staunch believer that there should be another dedicated parent holiday: Single Parents’ Day. On this proposed holiday, all the parents who are in a couple will be forced to separate for a day, with one parent taking care of his/her own kids, while another parent will take care of a single parent’s kids for the day. And when I say day, I mean from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., none of that I’ll-watch-your-kids-for-three-hours bit.
I am happy to say that I’m part of a happily-married couple with child, but recently I had to live the single parent lifestyle. My husband ended up going across the country for four months for work, leaving me with our then one-year old.
A disclaimer: I’m also lucky in that I have my parents nearby. At least I didn’t have to shuttle the wee one off to daycare before heading to work—I was fortunate that the daycare came to me. So really, my only single parenting came after work and on the weekends.
After work, the routine involved frantically making dinner for P, feeding her, Skyping with the husband so P wouldn’t forget his smiling face, giving her a bath, putting her to bed, eating, showering, and sleeping. I just got exhausted writing that sentence.
The weekends, though, oh the weekends. Talk about no down time: Up at the crack of dawn, running errands, laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning the house while P slept, cooking, etc. You get the idea. One day P was bouncing off the walls with energy, and I was so exhausted I just put her in her crib for ten minutes while I collapsed on the bed. It was a sweet, sweet ten minutes. I love my daughter, but going to work on Monday morning was like going on vacation.
The worse, though, was how I figured out that she could open the front door by herself. We live on the second floor of a duplex, so there is a precipitous flight of stairs right outside our front door. One Saturday morning, I was running around as usual, trying to get out of the house. I slipped into the bathroom for a second to brush my teeth while P was playing with my keys in the living room.
I spit out the last bit of toothpaste and rinsed, and was finally ready to head out. P looked up at me angelically…and the keys were nowhere to be found. Toy box? Check. Behind the couch? Check. In the trash? Check. Nope, no keys, nada.
I figured that I would just find them later, and grabbed an extra pair. I opened the front door and had a mild heart attack: The keys were sitting outside the door.
That’s how I figured that my little precocious P could open the front door. She opened it, threw the keys out, and closed the door. I don’t even want to think about the what ifs in that situation, and needless to say, I was up until ten that night installing a safety gate—while cursing the state of the California economy that had sent the hubs 3000 miles away.
Thinking back, I probably should have taken up my wonderful friends’ offers of looking after P a little more often, at least so I could use the bathroom in peace. At the same time, I felt guilty about the fact that she couldn’t spend time with one of her parents, and that spending all her time with me would somehow make that better. Silly, I know, but sometimes there’s no logical explanation for the way we think and react to situations.
Now that the four months are up, I am so grateful that my husband is back and that he washes the dishes while I give P a bath, and picks up the toys while I put her to bed. And watches her as I brush my teeth.
And if you know single parents, don’t wait for them to ask you for help. They need it. They want it, but may be too shy to ask. Show up with some food. If no one answers the door, leave on the front steps. Go hang out on a Saturday and let them enjoy some adult conversation. Go hang out on a Sunday and let them take a nap. Whatever you do, don’t take no for an answer. And until the Single Parents’ Day is instated, your friend can have five minutes to herself.