It's early in the morning, the moon is full and casts lovely dappled light in our yard through the Siberian elm, and I'm sipping my coffee as our fountain gurgles. A dove wakes up with a start and explodes out of the branches, setting the neighbor's dog barking. The breeze coming in from the ocean keeps it lovely and cool, and pushes the noise from the freeway away from us into the broad valley. In an hour or so, however, it'll bring to us the wailing horn of the train in the valley behind, and wake Petra up.
She'll stumble into the living room is a dozy mood, pouting just like Elis did, and swinging her long legs just like Ben did. She'll watch Sesame Street for an hour, and turn the TV off to go practice her piano. Then Sandra will creep out of the bedroom to do her yoga, and ease into the day. It's Sunday so I'll make sausage and eggs or waffles, as the ladies order. The odours wafting into the living room will make Angelina rat jump up and down in excitement, and she'll snatch the rash of bacon right out of my hand without ceremony. While Sandra does a bit of gardening, Petra finishes her homework on the dining room table. We have room, lots of room, yet she prefers the old oak table and its high-back chairs, and the traffic in the middle of the house. I guess two other adults don't offer too much distraction.

We'll go to the Unitarian church this morning, in a lovely red sandstone building 125 years old. In the afternoon Petra will invite Rachel over, matching blue-eyed long-haired blonde 7 yr.-old neighbour she can go and fetch on her own. They'll set up a tent city and escape into their fantasy world all afternoon, not a computer or electric toy in sight (yet they have both). As the sun sets and bathes the back porch in its golden light (from the pollution in LA farther west), I light up the barbecue as Sandra cuts up the veggies, I slow-cook the chicken on indirect heat (light the burners on one side, and leave the meat on the other, so it cooks rather than burns).

We eat on the porch as the girls escape to the swing, unable to contain their energy and excitement - the tree has grown out so far, that they can touch its leaves as they swing way up - Sandra prefers not to look, as their hair flies in the breeze that carries their giggles all through the neighborhood - that breeze also carries the smell of charred meat from another barbecue, with an undertone of  lighting fluid adding an edge to it. Eventually darkness will envelope the valley again, Petra wanders off to sleep, we watch a foreign comedy on our tiny 13" TV (the kind our neighbors keep in their kitchen or bedroom). As we close the sliding door to the porch, we hear our fountain gurgling, and reflect how peaceful it is, here and now, in Southern California.