Yesterday I worked in a city that was mostly flat and lined with streets named after trees. It resembled San Diego, with its bungalows and pedestrian-free streets sprawling under a blazingly blue sky. On Eucalyptus, I found the house with a pine tree in the front yard just as my employer had described in her e-mail, rising among the bungalows like a many-tiered wedding cake that had been iced with purples and greens.
One of the last Victorian houses, it was built in 1912 and once inhabited by a doctor who established a free children's dental clinic in the Flat City and acted as county coroner in the 30s. His full name was carved on the first step of the staircase that wound up the slight hill on which the house sat. Next to the inscription was the logo of AC/DC, meticulously drawn in white marker by some pedestrian music fan.
My employer is an extremely disorganized, loquacious, red-haired lady. She is fond of cats (she has seven), pumpkins, and bird houses. She also has a twenty-five-year-old son with Down's (what she calls the Stubborn Syndrome) and a son in high school, a soccer star on a college hunt. The lady was very nice and scatterbrained, in that suburban soccer-mom style. She fed me the best chicken noodle soup I've ever had, with hunks of bread and a cold bottle of root beer.
While I sifted through receipts, to-do lists, medical bills, pension plans, college applications, etc., for four hours, the lady told me her life story. I nodded. As I have discovered last weekend, not only is it my job to sift, it is also my job to nod and listen.