Carmel by the Sea
Times weren’t all bad with my first husband. Interspersed among things that are difficult to think about are times that make me smile. Mostly they are things recalled about my son as a toddler, who to me, was the cutest, funniest little boy on the planet.
When Jarrod was almost four years old, we moved to Carmel. We rented a tiny cottage for $750 per month, the most we had ever paid for any place we had ever lived. Jarrod’s dad, Joe, had been an operating engineer and injured his back, which resulted in surgery and vocational rehabilitation. He went back to school and became a different kind of engineer; a recording engineer and somehow landed a job at a studio in Monterey.
On the day we arrived with our moving van, the elderly woman who lived next door came over to welcome us. Then she insisted we come over for something to eat before we unloaded. She fixed scrambled eggs with fresh peas. It was the first time I discovered that I liked peas.
We lived in the cottage for less than a year and those were the best of days between Joe and I. There was a magical bubble of bliss that surrounded the little place. I have no bad memories in that house. Perhaps it was just because it was Carmel, a place unlike any place we had ever lived before. It felt like an extended vacation. Jarrod and I would walk our dogs to town everyday to pick up the mail because there was no delivery to the homes downtown. Until a post office box became available our address was General Delivery, Carmel, CA 93921.
The cottage was damp and cold, but we had a stone fireplace that we lit almost daily, even in the summer. The kitchen had a huge vintage stove with a built-in griddle where too many pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches were served from. It took Jarrod a little while to adjust. Having seen my mother almost daily since the day he was born, he missed her terribly. He would randomly burst into tears and tell me he wanted her. When he got mad at me for any little act of discipline he would say, “I wanna go live with my Nonna.” It was adorably sweet and heartbreaking at the same time.
It was here that a boy named Jason showed up. Jason didn’t really exist, but in Jarrod’s mind. It was a textbook case of an imaginary friend. I think it might have been a result of losing the first real playmate that he’d ever had back in the town from where we moved. There was a little boy named Jimmy that lived across the street and in the year leading up to our move they played together often.
I’m not sure where the name Jason came from. He had certainly never seen “Friday, the 13th,” and we didn’t know anyone named Jason. Jarrod talked to him and about him everyday. I worried at first, but after a phone call with his pediatrician who told me it was perfectly normal and that the timing made sense, Joe and I began to go along with it. Jarrod would stop what he was doing several times a day to tell me something about Jason. One day I asked him if Jason was coming with us to get the mail and he said, “Jason already went to pick up his mail.” Another day he told me Jason didn’t like to walk.
There weren’t any other children for Jarrod to play with in the neighborhood, but our elderly neighbor had a grandson who would visit. He was a mixed-race child with the most beautiful skin tone. One day, after playing with him all day, Jarrod asked, “Can I play with that green kid again tomorrow?”
I’m not sure why we moved from there. I recall it was tiny, but that didn’t seem to be a good enough reason. Joe and I were both working in Monterey, which wasn’t much of a commute. But we did move to a bigger house in Monterey, and sadly, that was the last house that the three of us would ever share together. The bubble of bliss was about to burst.