A Good Neighborhood with a Few Bad Apples

My parents purchase a brand new home in a soon to be constructed tract that was a former citrus grove. We moved from two rentals awaiting this house to be built. Moving to 19051 Tranbarger was exciting, and although everything was spanking new, in true form, Nancy and Joe customized and added to this home with trending details; vivid in my mind, like subtle gold glitter sprayed into the popcorn ceiling treatment.

Dad often worked in upscale neighborhoods, sometimes in opulent mansions where he would salvage classic pieces to bring to our home. A client in Beverly Hills was replacing their marble goddess sculptured fireplace facing. Dad tried chiseling the marble figures himself to reclaim them, but one slip of the hand tool and she was ruined, leaving to the owner’s demolition plans.

He did successfully dismantle a bold wooden antique banister. We figured it was constructed between 1790-1890 because of the square nails. Dad sanded and tooled each spindle, finials, and the railing, stained and re-assembled it replacing the metal original banister that came with the house. Once complete, my sister and I were allowed, under supervision, to slide down it only once, which was amazing. Just like in the movies.

There was the time when my parents were gluing tile backsplash behind the stove. I guess my parents forgot to read the label as the glue, and it’s fumes where flammable. The entire wall burst into flames. They still completed the design after much yelling, and managing to keep the home from burning down.

Dad also built an elaborate waterfall and pond. He was mesmerized by the black light water falls at Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad attraction, so he bought a large outdoor black light which illuminated the pond. Found and purchased florescent tablets to put in the pond water, and also painted the outline of some of the rocks with florescent paint (which could not be seen during the day, only with the black light illuminating the rocks). By now, one can tell my father had a flare for panache. The five-tierred lighted pagoda in the front yard, quazi-Asian landscape, Romen themed furnishings in the formal living room (bust of Caesar had perfectly shaped lips so I practiced making-out with him when no one was around), the music room, the dazzling deep rich blue carpet in our family room, just a sampling of the upgrades, as tacky as they sound, surprisingly worked well, and uniquely made this house their home.

One of the weekend parties/jam sessions, resulted in the band and vocalist moving to the family room for more drinks and card playing. I, walking by the music room, noticed smoke coming from the mattress day bed. I examined closer and a cigarette burned right through the top of the mattress, smoldering deep inside. I ran and notified my father; he, with guests looking on, pulled the mattress outside, stuffing the hose into the bed, drowning out what could have been a tragic situation if we had all gone to sleep developing into my Mother’s greatest fear.

As the neighborhood homes filled one by one, we made friends with some very good people and as with human nature, some flawed, as we each embark on our own personal journey; The Ravens, hard working Mormons. Their daughters invited us to attended their Vacation Bible Study during the summer, which overall was very fun because my sister and I enjoyed singing. I even attended their Bible study at 6a.m. before school once summer ended. However, it was the comment that one of my girlfriends said to me that didn’t make any sense and at my very young age seem judgmental and cruel. She told me that the mark that God made on Cain for the sin of murdering his brother was that He made him black. That all black people were decedents of Cain’s sin. And,”if you notice how black people were getting lighter…that’s because God was starting to forgive them”. My nature was so naive and trusting, but I was able to determine this was total bullshit, and I found myself pulling away from this doctrine and, in time, them.

There were the Cliffs, which turned out Peggy was the younger sister of one of my parents good friends who happen to be an usher in my parent’s wedding. She had four wonderful children, all growing up to be decent, worthwhile, community contributing good adults. Peggy stood up for me when I made my Confirmation in the Catholic church, forevermore calling her my Nina and considered family.

The Peppers were our best girl friends. My sister and I learned to skate because of them and spent many weekends at the skating rink. Diane was always favored by her skate instructor, she would be pulled into his office and when she emerged she always had a present from him, although never a smile. I remember feeling left out, but then learning much later that there was a sinister reason why this instructor favored Diane and found a way to keep her quiet.

The John’s had an adolescent daughter close to my age, Christy. They often babysat for our immediate neighbor’s to the right of us who had two beautiful children Randy and Kimberly; Their parents, Beverly and her husband Chris, were young and very attractive with a black Great Dane dog. I’d never seen a dog that big before . Mrs. Johns often left her babysitting responsibilities of Randy to Christy, and although I never witnessed the abuse; my sister and Diane told me of numerous times where Christy would lock Randy in the closet, or slap him across the face for no reason just to make him cry, he couldn’t have been more than 3yrs. Old! Then they told me Christy would take him to the top of the stairs, hold him over the banister let go of him from the second story then catch him by his ankles. It was too horrible to believe, and I said nothing. I so regret that I was too young and immature to not have said a word. Over the years I have reflected and wondered if Randy’s life has been a tragic outcome because of all he endured and may not even know why.

From the outside the neighborhood looked middle-class and wholesome, and for the most part it was, and then there were the Makkas’. The parent’s immigrated from Greece, nice but ill-prepared for their unruly kids. Maleta was the oldest who became our baby-sitter when my Dad had a late night gig far from home. I was nearly 11 years., my sister 8 when we first started hanging out with Irean, the middle daughter. She was boy crazy and had a slight influence over me. She and her sister Maleta wanted to go shopping with us when they heard my mother was taking us to the mall. Irean told me to bring my big straw purse from Mexico that were very popular in the late 60’s, so I did. I watched her put the purse up the the bow and jewelry counters whipping out the entire inventory into my purse in one swipe. I just stared in shock… dumbfounded. Then Maleta in the dressing room pulled on layers of cloths underneath her skirt as I watched in disbelief. Both putting my Mother, sister and me at risk, let alone it was just wrong! Afterward I witnessed Maleta lie to her mother when her mom asked where she got all these new cloths with tags still hanging off them.

One summer, around dusk, all the kids in the neighborhood where playing in the street, as usual. Irean and I were sitting watching from the tailgate of my father’s truck. One of the older boys, Steve, was getting ready to hit the ball, then he threw down the bat and started chasing after my sister. My father came outside and grabbed the boy to stop him from chasing Julie. Steve said that one of us said “I want to see your balls”, my father pulled my sister and I into the house taking my sister first, spanking her, she admitting quickly what she hadn’t said just to make him stop spanking her. Then when he started to spank me I refused to admit it, nor would I cry because I was so angry that he would believe this boy and not us. When my father realized I wasn’t going to relent, that I wasn’t lying, he stopped and he never spanked me again. I think it was Irean who said what upset Steve and my father, because it certainly wouldn’t have been beyond her level of crassness, but honestly I never heard it.

Finally, my inner strength and morals tested, when Maleta was babysitting as my parents went to San Juan Capistrano for my Dad’s band’s engagement. They felt too far from home to leave us unattended. The doorbell rang and when I opened it a girl sized me up and down and said snidely to Maleta “you said you were babysitting. This isn’t a baby”. Maleta was going to let her in, and the car full of friends. I said no. Maleta went out to the car to party with her sidekicks and I locked her out of the house the entire night. When my parents came home she had the nerve to collect the money from them in spite of the fact she did not do what they were paying and trusting her to do. So I told my Mom and Dad everything. They never hired her again and I stopped hanging out with her younger sister too. We were labeled square.

Maleta and Iren had a middle brother, George. George bought a junker car, then parked it on blocks in front of our house using it for his party hangout. He and his friends would dump their cigarette butts and beer cans in front of our house. My Father had it! He went next door to talk to George Sr., but they nearly came to blows, so the next day our house, the home my parents spent years transforming and spending much of their second job’s earnings, went on the market. The day we moved George Jr. died of an overdose in the bathroom of his parents house. Sad for their family, certainly not the end of their drama, however, it made our departure liberating no matter how much we all Loved that home.

There were many good memories too; all the parties with Dad’s band, our Christmas Caroling around our safe neighborhood, playing in the street, on the stilts my Dad made for us, softball, riding bikes, skateboarding, roller skating, our go-cart, another of Dad’s handmade toys, all until dark. Running through the field and pomegranate orchid, which would become the 60 Freeway. And then there were many of the talent shows my sister and I would put on in our garage, charging the neighbor kids a quarter while we used the Alumium Christmas tree four color rotating wheel light as our spot light. We would coordinate wearing any matching outfit, usually our red poke-dot dresses, adding to our lip singing presentation of “Stop in the Name of Love”. We were a good family, living in and Loving our home, and each other very much.

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