When our family originally moved from Mountain View to Los Altos, we thought our newly purchased home cost more than what anyone ought to pay for a three-bedroom fixer-upper, but the joke at the time was that in Los Altos, you pay for the land and the house itself is free. That said, the property had potential, so my husband and I took the plunge and bought it.
The second day after we had moved in, a neighbor approached me while I was standing outside. He was an original homeowner, someone who had built his house on this tract of land where nothing but orchards had existed before.
He introduced himself, and said, “We welcome the Asiatics here,” to which I responded, “Oh, thank you,” because it was the only thing I could think of on the spot. He then smiled, wished me well, and walked home.
He was a nice man, though obviously a little behind the times on how to address and relate to “Asiatics.” But no harm, no foul: For more than 20 years, our family has enjoyed what eventually became for us a grand home in a wonderful neighborhood among truly decent people.
We had no plans to leave Los Altos anytime soon, but as it turns out, we are. My husband’s new job pulls us over to the East Bay, and as a result, I’ve been engaged in a private long goodbye, recollecting moments like that first hello. And while there are things I’ll miss – the library, the trees, dog-friendly parks – in general, I think it’s the people I’ll regret leaving the most.
Over the years, I’ve met many kind and friendly Los Altans. I’ve also met a ton of stressed-out types. Often they prove to be one and the same – individuals both caring and anxiety-ridden. Honestly, I probably lean that way myself. To a certain extent, I think it just comes with the literal territory.
Every year, I have helped seniors at Los Altos High School with their college essays, and through tales they have relayed to me, I’ve encountered scores of Los Altos and Mountain View homes. While each student travels a unique journey, if I had to pick a common thread, I would say that families in our community want to do good and be good. However, the level of emotional commitment attached to those goals ranges anywhere from earnestness to hysteria.
I’m not criticizing. I’m much the same as everyone else. But having once met a student (a transplant from a small European country) who was relaxed about the entire college essay process (something she attributed to her cultural upbringing), it was regretful that her and her family’s tranquility struck me as an unusual thing in this town.
I have mainly focused on the many kindnesses I’ve received from fellow Los Altans: meals and gifts when I was diagnosed with cancer; kitchen privileges in a neighbor’s house while ours was undergoing a remodel; recommendations and information on a range of topics from dog breeders to gardeners. People here like to help. They want to do good and be good.
It is therefore appropriate that my final column ends in gratitude. Thanks for paying attention and listening. Thanks for the feedback. Thanks for all the good (and bad) times. But most of all, thanks for the memories. You can bet that every last one will be coming along with me.