California Dreamin’ on Such a Winter’s Day
By Robin Jovanovich
Like most women with too much time on her hands, I’ve enjoyed a rich fantasy life. Not one that involves partying with the Chippendales, but one with a good foundation, high ceilings, and lots of natural light. So how is it that I lived contentedly for 14 years in a house that initially had dirt floors, low ceilings, and short windows? We owned another home in sunny California. It wasn’t grand and boasted little curb appeal, but it had location in spades.
When we bought the little San Diego bungalow in an uptown neighborhood that has the look and feel of Rye’s Indian Village, but with majestic palm trees and wide, perfectly paved streets, it wasn’t ready for its close-up. The previous owners were hip southern Californians, not tightly wired New Englanders. They looked like they really enjoyed living in what I can only describe as an adult campsite — fun, unmanicured, interesting. Maybe even risqué!
When we were done with the renovation — hats off to the competent, organized few who can renovate a house thousands of miles away and have it featured in a well-known shelter magazine — the result was a 1,900 square-foot hybrid that had lofty ceilings, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and room for a round kitchen table that seated eight comfortably. We transplanted palms, nursed a 100-year-old avocado tree back to life, planted citrus trees and loquats, and trained camellias up the side of the house.
Our friends came from far and wide. We showed them the town. We took them to ball games and historic sites. We had casual dinners and introduced them to the wonderful San Diego friends we’d known since 1985, when my husband’s business brought us there.
After our East Coast friends left, we went back to reading the classics, which we rarely had time for at home. We set out on our regular strolls to cute retail shops, independent coffeehouses, and Balboa Park, where the Zoo and many museums are clustered. We never tired of watching the wondrous sunsets and waking to the sound of Taps being played at the nearby military base.
Those precious weeks that we spent this side of paradise in San Diego every year for over a decade came to a crashing end with COVID.
After we’d brought the Christmas tree curbside, we gave serious consideration to packing the dog and the car and driving West after Christmas. But then our grandchildren wanted to come over and play and I decided now was the time to deal with the jumbled state of affairs at our Westy’s storage unit.
It was while helping me go through and dispatch old memories — glowing report cards, his pre-transplant hospital bills, letters from old flames — that my husband of close to 45 years chanced to say, “Maybe it’s time to sell the San Diego house.”
Having no desire to do so, I countered, “Well, only if we can get an astronomical price.” In my experience as a serial home buyer and remodeler, I was typically the only person who ever made an offer on the house I then bought, so it seemed a safe bet.
When we sign the papers with the buyer next month, I will be sad because that undersized house we always talked about expanding so that our whole family could stay there at the same time, was a piece of my aging heart.