This Roommate Feels Familiar

Her red Van canvas shoes, size 7, are parked under the chair in the hallway. They are nestled next to my weathered Sacony running shoes, size 5. Every morning, when I wake in my Los Angeles apartment, and spy our shoes side-by-side, I feel happy. It's the feeling that originated decades ago when I recovered from anesthesia and was informed, it's a girl.

My daughter, Faith, was my firstborn, into the world 18 months before her sister, Jill. For half of the year, Faith lives in Boston, with her 12-year-old daughter, Betsy, and their extended family. This is Faith's second season writing on her sister Jill's Amazon Series, "Transparent." Instead of couch surfing like she did during Season One, she has accepted my invitation to be my roommate.

"We'll see how it goes," I had said, when upon arriving in L.A., I opted to seek a larger apartment that could accommodate the two of us, rather than a studio for just me. I was pretty confident the arrangement would work -- Faith is an easygoing sort of gal -- and that the money she would contribute to my rent would make the tab easier for me.

"I'm sure it'll be fine, Momma," she said. I should mention she is also sweetly optimistic.

I insisted Faith take the one bedroom for herself because I wake at 4 a.m. and jump into my home office. I purchased an IKEA sofa bed, which is providing me with excellent sleep. "It's my own studio," I say, when she repeats her guilt for taking the bedroom.

"I can get up, turn on lights, make coffee, write in my journal, and get on my laptop. I couldn't do that if you were on the sofa bed," I add, smug about my longtime routine.

Of course, we've each had to make compromises to oblige our lifestyles. I watch my critically acclaimed TV shows before she gets home from work. Then, I turn the remote over to her for reality shows. "The Celebrity Apprentice" and "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" and "Beverly Hills" are her favorites.

Faith turns off the living room television at 8 p.m. when it's lights out for this early bird. Often, I'll lounge on the opened sofa bed and try to watch her shows, but having Donald Trump being the last image you see before dreamland is not something I'd recommend.

I don't insist that Faith make her bed or tidy up her room before she leaves for work. It's a method I employed when she and her sister were toddlers: I just close the door. I suppose I should tell you I was a calm parent, madly in love with my two daughters. In my eyes, they could do no wrong.

I raised them without judgment because I wanted to do the opposite of my mother. Their grandmother undoubtedly loved me, but her criticism of my weight, my slouch, and other attributes that reminded her of my father, who she nagged often, wounded me.

I was also guided by a classic parenting book, "Children The Challenge" by Rudolf Dreikurs. His lessons "natural consequences" and "let the children handle their own battles" suited my style. Consequently, I never interfered if they were fussing with each other. I simply stayed out of their disagreements, and encouraged them to figure out how to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Back to the adjustments as a roommate: Faith has to remind me, "Please close the bathroom door, Momma."

I reply, "Oh, sorry, I'm so used to living on my own." But, this is false, for when Tommy was alive; we never closed the bathroom door. In fact, I think that was one of my favorite parts about our compatible 14-year-marriage. Keep the bathroom door open to continue conversations. For comfort, dispense of my bra when in the house. Leave on the hall table the baseball cap that covered his balding dome.

Actually, in many ways Faith reminds me of the pleasure and ease of living with Tommy. There's the heart bounce when the front door opens and a familiar voice announces, "I'm home," and their appreciation of my simple dinners. Tommy would gladly eat anything I cooked; my daughter is grateful for the Gelson's-prepared food that awaits her at day's end.

These comparisons bring up another reminder: Tommy's size 9 running shoes would sit at the bottom of the stairs in our Chicago house. That's where I would perch, too, to remove my 5's. Two pair of shoes nestled side-by-side; what could be sweeter, or so familiar.

Happy Holidays

I was the seventh resident to tape a greeting card to the wall of our building's elevator. The design I had selected, and affixed with double-sided Scotch tape, was as holiday-neutral as the others. Snowman, Santa, a sprig of holly (mine), and wintry scenes. No figure on the cross, crèche, or menorah

When I first saw the cards on the elevator wall, which bore people's first names only and their apartment number, I thought, how quaint. At the time, it didn't occur to me to join in on the display because I had only been a resident for a few weeks.

Although I had introduced myself to several neighbors on my walkway, and said hello to fellow passengers in this small elevator, I didn't feel long-term enough to post a greeting card. (I feel a need to explain the use of "walkway" rather than "floor," which would've been the terminology in a high-rise. But I live in a 24-unit building, which is square-shaped and overlooks a ground floor landscaped courtyard. To me, it's very film noire.)

But on this elevator day, after going up-and-down several times to do my laundry, I decided, why not? My card read, "Happy Holidays." I added in pen, "to all!" and signed Elaine, #21.

Some background: I have lived and adjusted, in a variety of neighborhoods; I count 15 since 1960, the year of my first marriage. This condominium building, which houses a few other renters like myself, is my latest challenge. I have a one-year lease -- enough time to plant myself and see if I flourish. Or, if I'm seasonal, like the holly on my card.

One nourishment -- along with my family -- is the fact that I have settled in a fertile neighborhood called "Beachwood." My daughters and her friends have told me that this is the place where they all docked when they first moved as a troupe from Chicago to L.A.

I like the idea that I'm in a setting of fresh starts, hopefulness, and even youthful enthusiasm, even though I've topped all newcomers' ages by several decades. Why can't this also be blossoming soil for the older set?

In an earlier essay, I claimed I wanted to find a place that was walking distance from my daughter Jill. I thought the proximity would ensure an easy transition from my former home and life in Chicago, and that I could untangle any familial knots and knit a new tapestry of family love so tight, it'd be impossible to unravel.

So, while I was temporarily housed in an Airbnb that was walking distance from my kin in Silver Lake, I reviewed half a dozen places nearby. Alas, none felt like home.

But, as soon as I stepped into this Beachwood apartment, I sent a text to Jill: "it's perfect." When she -- in a reversal of roles that had her playing the scrutinizing mother and me the silent daughter -- came for a viewing, she agreed and the year's lease was signed.

So, instead of walking distance to Jill, I'm a 30-minute bus ride (#2 along Sunset Blvd.) or a 10-minute Uber or Lyft car ride ($8) to her home. But in the swap of neighborhoods, while losing easy access to dear relatives, I gained a grocery store a block away (the amazing Gelson's), a comedy club, (Upright Citizens Brigade), and a second-hand bookstore (Counterpoint where I bought Alice Munro's "Friend of My Youth").

Another bonus of my new home -- that helps to make up for the distance from Jill -- is that I'm a 15-minute walk from buses that can take me to several favorites: Temple Israel of Hollywood, a reform synagogue for Saturday morning Torah study, to Target on La Brea, or to The Grove on 3rd and Fairfax with its Farmers Market and Apple store.

And recently, I walked 1.3 miles to The Trails coffee shop in lush Griffith Park. It's that benefit that has me grateful for my locale, for from opposite directions, mother and daughter recently met for coffee, conversation, and hugs.

Eventually, the holiday cards that are decorating the elevator will be tugged down. Perhaps before that happens, passengers will take a moment to flip the cover of each card and read the name of the signer. Most will have no clue about "Elaine." I figure I have the coming new year to correct that mystery; not only for my neighbors, but also for resident 21 herself.