I was perched on a stool at the bar of Intelligentsia, a coffee shop on East Randolph St. in Chicago. While I waited for my decaf to be brewed, I pulled out a notebook that I had recently purchased in Los Angeles at Muji, a hip Japanese retailer that sells clothing, furniture, and stationary.
While my small ritual was taking place in the city of my birth, and where I have lived for a majority of my 75 years, my mind travelled to the Intelligentsia on Silver Lake Blvd., in Los Angeles, where my daughter, Jill, and her family live. Both the shop, and the notebook -- which was opened to a blank page -- seemed to be omens of a possible new future.
It all started a few weeks ago on a four-day trip. My 17-year-old grandson, Isaac, and I were seated at Sqirl, a breakfast spot in East Hollywood. I was eating "Crispy Kokuho Rose Brown Rice Salad, Lemongrass, Mint, Cilantro, Ginger with a fried egg," while Isaac chose the Sweet side of the menu, "Brioche Toast with Guittard Chocolate Ganache, Nut Butter, and Fleur De Sel."
My fashionable grandson had selected Muji and Sqirl for a morning we were spending together. I was relishing his company -- and wasn't even miffed when he recoiled as I combined our leftovers into one take-home container.
"Grandma, you can't do that!" he said, as he watched me place the egg concoction and sugary bread in a Styrofoam nest. Isaac looked appalled, as if I were a peasant who had wandered into this chic spot.
"I can't leave them behind," I said. "Besides, you don't want your brioche, and I'll be eating both of them."
"Use two boxes!" he said, and closed his eyes at his gauche grandmother.
Isaac shook his head and didn't press it further, but our affectionate repartee made me realize how much I missed him and the rest of his family. And during that particular visit to L.A., I not only got to see Jill's crew, but also my other daughter, Faith, and my 12-year-old granddaughter, Betsy, who were visiting from Boston. For me, those four days on the West Coast were precious, something to be savored as much as my meal.
Isaac must've felt a similar tug, because during our walk to his car, he said, "Grandma, why don't you move here?"
"I did consider it last year," I told him, "then chickened out. Maybe this time I'll experiment, rent a place for a few weeks and see how it feels to live here independently."
He brightened. "That sounds like a good plan."
And with those words, wheels began to spin. "I'll come for the whole month of February," I told Jill. "Rent an Airbnb that'll be walking distance to your house. This way, I'll miss part of Chicago's horrible winter."
Both of us went on the website where people lease their spare rooms, coach houses, or furnished apartments. "Here's one just seven minutes from me," Jill said, in an email that accompanied a neighborhood map.
Although other L.A. sections would likely house people nearer my age, I like Silver Lake because it's similar to Chicago's Wicker Park -- with restaurants and boutiques in easy walking distance. Any eventual move wouldn't make sense if I couldn't easily trot over to Jill's, or to Intelligentsia.
After I researched her pick and was about to book it, another communiqué came from my co-conspirator. "Why wait until February?" she said. "Come sooner."
"How about two weeks in November, with Thanksgiving included?" I said. "The holidays are hard without family."
Jill gave the idea her blessing. And then the experiment seemed to morph into something more permanent, with each of us positing advantages: "I've already downsized," I said. "It'd be one truck load going cross country."
Then, "If I lived close enough and you get delayed at work, I could go over and start dinner."
"You're an early riser," Jill said, warming to the concept. "I can sleep in and you can come over in the morning to start Felix's breakfast." The image of my 5-year-old grandson's sleep-tussled head upped the ante.
So is it Chicago's past brutal winter that sparked this second, more serious pull to sunny California? Or, is it the realization that the luscious visit with Isaac and his family could be repeated weekly, rather than three times a year?
And maybe Faith and Betsy would move to L.A.? Perhaps my Chicago friends would be frequent visitors? Maybe I'll adopt a dog, lease a Honda? Oh, there's no end to positive scenarios I can dream up.