Oakes’ View:

It’s a small town, after all

April 23, 2009|By Lauren Oakes

I was recently sitting with a fairly new member of our hospital guild, awaiting the arrival of the rest of the nominating committee, and we got to talking about where she grew up. That turned out to be on Orange Tree Lane here in town. I mentioned a minor auto accident that had happened on that tiny street.

“I’m the one who saw that!” she exclaimed. And I said, “My mom’s the one whose property was damaged by that car!”

At which point she looked at me in amazement and blurted out, “Erma was your MOTHER?”

We started laughing and went on talking about their shared neighbor, Bernie and her husband, now gone, and their cat “Potato.”


She told me my mom had once spotted her and another little girl way down in the canyon, and had yelled at them: “Get off my property! You’re trespassing and I’ll call the sheriff!”

I cracked up. I said as she got a lot older she didn’t see as well and probably couldn’t tell she was yelling at fourth grade girls, thinking they were scouts for some street gang or worse — firemen inspecting the canyon for brush clearance. Which she resisted fiercely, saying she’d chosen that house in particular because of the lush growth in the canyon and didn’t see any reason to hack it away each spring.

My mother was a true and somewhat fierce eccentric. In her youth she looked like Katharine Hepburn and in her maturity she acted kind of like her, as far as the stories about Miss Hepburn’s eccentricities, I mean. She was smart, warm, generous to both friends and strangers, unbelievably tough and loyal. But she was also weird. So I consider it my birthright to be a little off myself.

She had five indoor cats. Mom was convinced coyotes might scent her cats inside the house and come “right through the window or door screens to get them.”

She worked out a system to keep the coyotes from even suspecting there were five balanced meals awaiting them inside that flimsy fortress. Its lynch-pin was the correct management of their litter boxes. (Notice I said boxes; each of the five cats had their own and there was an extra one besides.)

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