Last night I dreamed that Joy Bloch was alive and living in her old house on Orville Street, alone. In my dream she had become one of those people who refuses to pay for any services or utilities, and in fact, had no water heater or functioning appliances. No electricity or anything. She explained her reasoning for doing this, in the same calm voice that taught me how to cook a steak, or make chocolate chip cookies. I don't remember exactly what it was she was doing but it all sounded vaguely political. She was sick, too, and had a wheelchair. I don't think I ever saw her in a wheelchair. The house was trashed.
She was basically camping in her own home.
It was weird to hear her voice and see her old cluttered house again, in a dream, but to be me now, and not me, then. The last time I saw her I was a skinny little girl. I tried to convince her to clean up and buy a water heater but she wouldn't do it.
I have no idea why my brain turned her into some kind of urban survivalist. She wasn't like that at all. She was funny and smart and creative, and spent a lot of time with me, which I have always appreciated.
I posted this when I woke up this morning, at about 5:15 a.m., using the Blogger text message feature. Now it's around 10:40, and I've had some time to think about it some more. Being able to update my blog via text is pretty cool. For some reason I can't really get Blogger to work right on my iPad or iPhone, but text messaging is really easy.
Anyway, I've been thinking about this dream all morning, and trying to remember more details.
I've probably written about Joy before. I hope I remember things from one time to another the same way? I mean, I hope I don't make details up, every time I write about her. I hope my imagination and my memory have things right. On the other hand, what does it matter?
Sometimes when I visit my mom and dad, and I take Jules to the park or for a walk in the stroller, I like to wander around on the streets in my old neighborhood. Orville is just a couple blocks down from my parents' house. The people who live in Joy's old house cleaned up the yard and painted, but otherwise, it pretty much looks (on the outside) the same way it did when she and her son Guy lived there. When was that? I think it must've been the late 80s. I can see her little two-door orange Honda Civic in the driveway, or the really old blue Buick convertible she had before they got the Civic. I remember helping her to pop the top on the convertible. I remember the Go Big Blue! Dodgers stickers that were on both cars.
I can see the living room in my mind, with the small dining room on the right, near the front door. All the rooms in their house were painted white. There were two windows in the living room. One looked to the front of the house, the other to the side of the neighbor's house. Their dining room table was round, and had an early Apple computer on it. They were definitely early computer users. She did a lot of work from home and I'm sure knew all sorts of things about the early days of computing. Remember the green text on the screens of those old computers? That's what I remember. And the noisy old printers. Dot matrix. I don't remember exactly what she did. She worked at Culver Park for awhile, the local high school for the kids who for one reason or another couldn't make it with the general population over at the main high school, but I think before she did that she was some kind of bookkeeper or something. I can't remember. She had professional stationery, I seem to remember.
We used to paint Christmas scenes on the living room windows with some kind of washable paint. Every year she'd do that, and let me help, and include all her dogs in the pictures. They always had more than one. When we first met her, they had Schnauzers. Later, it was those big English setters, I think.
From the dining room you could walk into the kitchen, where we spent a lot of our time. The sink was set in at an angle, and looked out into the back yard. I think the tile was pale yellow. She had a double oven, in the wall to the left of the doorway from the dining room. In my dream, the oven doors had come off and were being held up off the floor with belts. I'm not sure that's how someone would really do it. The back door to the yard was in a little utility room where the washer and dryer were. I think she also had a little bathroom there, with just a toilet and a sink. What's that kind of bathroom called? That's where the space for the water heater was, in the utility room, I think. In my dream, it was totally missing. It was just an empty space with marks on the wall and spiderwebs.
In real life, she had a bunch of magnets and things on her refrigerator. One was a drawing of a mouse clinging to some string. The caption read something like, "When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on!" She showed me how to make cookies in that kitchen, and once, a chocolate cake that was so amazing and decadent. I don't remember why we were making the cake, but I remember the recipe called for sour cream and some sort of liqueur. We made ganache. We melted the chocolate in a double boiler. She was a messy Martha Stewart, Ina Garten.
Even though her house was always kind of a mess, full of dogs and cats and crafts projects all over the place, she had beautiful china plates. She often would let me stay for dinner. We'd sit on the couch and eat our medium rare steaks and creamed corn that she made from scratch on her pretty plates while sitting on the couch, using TV trays and watching the Dodger game or old Disney movies on VHS tapes. Dogs everywhere. Creamed corn is one of my favorite things in the whole world. And I was just thinking the other day that it's been a long time since I had a steak. Maybe I'll make one.
She's the one who taught me how to eat a steak, how to sew, how to bake, to appreciate real butter and real ingredients, to watch a baseball game, to play Monopoly, to not be a crybaby.
Every Christmas we would make huge quantities of chocolate chip cookies and English toffee and package them all in these adorable paper houses she would buy from somewhere and we assembled. I wish I had her English toffee recipe. I wish I had kept in touch with her better when she and her son moved away, before she died.
The bedrooms were all on the south side of the house. Guy's room faced the street and was a total disaster. I don't think I went in there very much. The middle bedroom was also full of stuff. It was just packed with boxes and things. I don't think I ever went in there. Joy's bedroom was at the back of the house, and usually full of light. We didn't go there often but I remember her showing me her record collection. She had a copy of Spike Jones doing "You Always Hurt the One You Love." She played it for me. It was the only room in the house not totally full of junk. They had a lot of stuff.
She was kind of heavy, and wore her super straight brown hair in a bob. Sometimes she'd pin it back behind her ear with a bobby pin. She was pretty. She wore polyester suits for work, or the big cotton muumuus she made for herself and my mom and their friends, at home.
I think the last time I saw her, before she and Guy moved away to Montana, I was probably around 12 or 13. My mother is 32 years older than me, and Joy was probably close in age to her... so when I was 13, they were both only 45. That seems so young to me now, yet was so old to me, then.
I'm kind of obsessed with real estate in my home town right now; maybe because I can't afford it. Her home, according to Zillow, sold in 1988 for $287k. The value listed now is about $596k. Zillow only lists one bathroom, so maybe I'm making the little powder room in the back up. I hope not. For some reason it feels important.