Posted by: charityliz | April 21, 2011

alligator tears and other tidbits from life on C St.

 Sometimes I seriously ponder how I actually had the gumption to pick up and move from my Shell Beach “paradise” about nine months ago, and trade it in for a “home” in some random apartment on some random street in some random city that I didn’t even know existed until about ten months ago (no offense to the Redwood City natives)!

But as random as it seemed at first, I have to say that life in my little apartment on C Street is beginning to take on more meaning for me–partly because I’m embracing it as home (and I’ve nested it to death) but mostly because the neighbors in the apartment below mine have added such color and little tidbits of delight to my everyday life–which makes it feel more like home.  Perhaps I should have been blogging about these little tidbits all along, but here’s the snapshots of what life is like with my neighbors around…

Introductions .

About four months ago, a family of six moved into the tiny one-bedroom apartment below me.  A mother (in her 50’s), with her three daughters–Brianna in Jr. High, Sonia in High School, and Cindy who’s 24 and works two jobs.  Cindy has two children, Sam (5 years old) and Lucia (6 years old). (I’ve picked “special” names for them here just in case they’d rather be anonymous).  Through a myriad of interactions I’ve gotten to know each of them in a special way…

Saturday School:
It all started one Saturday morning, when Brianna (Jr. High), knocked on my door and asked for a ride to Saturday School.  I was just finishing my second cup of coffee and figured why not, also feeling sorry for her for having to ask a stranger to take her to school.  Although I assumed that she probably had to go to Saturday School because she was in trouble, I found out that she was going because she didn’t have a computer at home and had to use the ones in the school library on Saturdays to catch up on all her school assignments. This broke my heart, I almost wanted to go out and get a computer for her (although she still would not have had internet access at home)– to think that her school was on the border of Atherton and Redwood City, and therefore she was competing with students who were among the wealthiest and most well-resourced in the nation!  This kind of disparity in education and society in general has a weird way of frustrating me and also leaving me feeling somewhat defeated, as it feels like such a never-ending problem.  In the mean time, I think God has me in Brianna’s life just to be someone who cares.  After that day, Brianna started dropping in for visits to my apartment–brief chats in the evenings, mostly about how school was going, and she admitted that she liked hanging out at my place because it was so “calm” and clean (I’m sure it seemed that way compared to an apartment smaller than mine with six people living there!).  Eventually Sonia (the sister in H.S.) and the two children started coming up to my apartment for visits as well.

Guacamole, Pozole & other amazing treats!
The day after I drove Brianna to school, her mom made some fresh Guacamole for me.  She speaks very little English and I’m about the same level with my Spanish.  But it was her way of saying thank you, and that’s easy to understand no matter what language you speak!   And the guacamole was absolutely delicious!   I seriously felt like the luckiest girl in the world, because I love me some good Guacamole (and Mexican food in general). Since then, I’ve had my first ever bowl of Pozole (scrumptious) and a few other Mexican dishes I’ve never even heard of, but my sweet neighbors love to share and often bring a plate of food up to my apartment for dinner.  It’s a little weird for me to be on the receiving end with food, since I love to cook and host for others…but it’s a blessing and always makes me feel cared for.

Language of fun

The first few times that the little kids, Sam & Lucia came up to visit, they came with Brianna.  They would just sit on the couch in my apartment.  Lucia would chatter about school or something she was learning and Sam (with his extremely limited English vocabulary) would just sit and stare at me…or giggle, if I tried to speak to him in Spanish (probably because my Spanish is pretty pathetic…but I’m trying to improve).  However, regardless of language barriers, the three of us have found that we all like to speak the language of FUN!  I often come home and the kids are playing in our cement courtyard that our apartments share, and we have all kinds of simple fun. Lucia “teaches” me to jump rope, I teach her to Hula Hoop, Sam and I play toss and kick around the soccer ball.  When we’re in a super creative mood, we play “theater” and each of us takes turns doing a dance performance, while the other two watch from my second floor “balcony”.  Lucia is a great little dancer, and clearly pictures herself as a princess.  Sam prefers break-dancing.  My favorite is when he makes a push up look like a dance move—his cute belly practically touching the cement the whole time.


Alligator Tears

One night a few weeks ago, I heard my apartment door bell ring—a sure sign that Sam is on the other side of the door, as he absolutely loves to ring that loud and annoying bell that is straight out of the 50’s. Sure enough, I opened the door to a bright, little Sam sheepishly smiling up at me, and Lucia standing behind him.  Sam was so excited to come in and play that he was literally stepping a foot into my apartment as I said “Hola! Como estas?!”

“Bien,” he steps into my apartment, already looking for something to play with.

“Did you come to play with me?” (I always ask, because I’m trying to get him to practice his English)

“Jes”.  (his version of Yes)

“Well, Sam, I would love to play today, but I actually have to go and meet a friend right now.  Maybe we can play tomorrow.”

As soon as the words came out, and Sam processed what I was saying, he stepped back and staring up at me, he just froze… and huge alligator tears began to form in his big brown eyes.  And before I knew it, he was balling.  Literally shaking and crying uncontrollably.  His sister tried consoling him and convincing him that they could come back tomorrow.  Meanwhile, I’m stumbling through my ridiculously limited Spanish vocabulary, trying to assure him that we could play tomorrow.  I just wanted to plop down and cry with him.  It was just so tender.

Of course, I knew he’d stop crying and be over it in ten minute, and I still had to leave. But I realized that day that I had become Sam’s friend…not just the random lady upstairs.
College Dreaming
One night Sonia & Brianna came up to my place to chat.  Sonia had a lot of questions about college and is planning to go to the community college after she graduates this Spring.  At first it was fun to use some of my knowledge to help her plan, but I quickly realized that both these girls were much different than many of the “at risk” students I’ve worked with, and even First Generation students.  As illegal immigrants, the cards are stacked against them for college entrance, access to jobs, and long-term success.  All politics aside, my heart just broke for her.  Sonia is a good student and super active in community volunteerism and says she’s trying to do everything possible to get herself into college.  But in the end, she has more barriers than most, and even I (with my guidance and counseling knowledge) struggled to know how to encourage her while also knowing the challenges that await her.

Dress Mending
One night, Sonia & Brianna came up for a visit, and Sonia asked if I could help her fix her dress with my sewing machine.  When I asked what happened, Brianna sheepishly admitted to trying to squeeze into the dress, which resulted in a busted zipper.  The three of us giggled at the harsh reality of trying to squeeze into clothes that are just too small, and I assured Brianna that she was beautiful even if she had a few more curves than her older sister.  We all laughed and I helped them sew in a new zipper.  It was actually a pretty crappy sew job (sorry, Mom), but the girls were happy with it and I was glad to help.


dance moves




  1. What a delightful read. Just like your name “Charity”.

    I love you!

  2. oh charity, I’m so glad u have befriended the family downstairs! I’m smiling as I am reading this, bc you have such a big generous heart and it doesn’t surprise me that this family has gravitated towards you. btw, i would love to sit on your balcony one day and have you perform some dance moves!! 🙂

  3. Hi Charity!

    I love that you are getting involved in this family’s life! They are soooo blessed to have you for a neighbor! I can’t wait to hear more cute stories! 🙂

  4. Charity, I love reading your blogs!! That is sooo awesome that you are embracing those kids!! What great stories, I can’t wait to hear more!

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