‘Beautiful Minutiae’ in Los Angeles
Laura Nicole Diamond, 46, is a . Her husband, Christopher Heisen, 45, runs an educational technology company, Educational Assessments Corp. The two live in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles with their 18-year-old foster daughter, Maria, and their two sons, Aaron, 14, and Emmett, 10. In August, Laura and Christopher will have been married for 17 years. Laura’s debut novel, “Shelter Us,” was released in June. She answered the questions for the family.
Forward: How did you meet and come to live together?
LAURA: We both graduated from Penn. We lived next door to each other but were barely acquaintances. We met again five years later, at an alumni event in Los Angeles. I was a law student at UC Berkeley at the time, home in L.A. for winter break. Christopher was in his first — and only — year of practicing law at an L.A. law firm. We had a first date the next night, and a second date about a year later. You could say it was a slow courtship.
How did you find your home?
We were living in Venice [California], but frequently visited my parents in Pacific Palisades, where I grew up. Where Venice is a great playground for adults, the Palisades is an extremely family-focused neighborhood. I had no interest in moving to Pacific Palisades, but we saw our house and were smitten. Now that our roots have grown here, I appreciate the community feeling.
Who takes out the garbage?
Christopher. Occasionally our sons, when we remind them.
How are household chores divided among you?
We both work from home, so chores tend to get done by whoever is more inclined to procrastinate at that particular moment, or more aggravated by a particular mess. That said, I usually wash dishes and sweep, and Christopher usually does laundry.
Who makes breakfast?
Christopher and the kids are the early risers. He takes charge of breakfast for the boys, and I straggle in to pack their lunches. On Saturday mornings Christopher is the master challah French toast chef.
Describe your typical week.
A typical week involves the usual beautiful minutiae of family life: taking the kids to school, working, taking walks or hikes or going to the gym, going to the market, cooking meals, helping with homework, attending kids’ basketball games at the local park. We are lucky to live near my parents, who will pop over for quick visits. As often as I can, I go to Friday morning Torah study at Kehillat Israel, and Sunday morning to Cardio Funk dance class.
What do you love the most about the space you live in?
The light. The way the family room and kitchen open to the backyard. The ways we have discovered to play in it: running a dining room–kitchen-hallway loop pretending to be race car drivers, or playing floor hockey with spatulas.
Who was first to get up when a child started crying?
How can it be this hard to remember something I thought would be happening for the rest of my life? I think when our sons were babies, most of the time I would get up when they cried. If I couldn’t get the baby settled down after a while, Christopher would come and rock him and let me go back to sleep. He had the magic touch.
What would you serve at your ideal Sunday brunch?
Do you have an ideal Sabbath dinner?
Someone else cooks or we order out. All I need for my ideal Shabbat dinner is my family and friends enjoying time together. And that doesn’t happen often enough.
Who’s your favorite Jewish comedian?
Billy Crystal or Sarah Silverman. Depends on my mood.
What is your favorite room in your home?
The living room, when the French doors are open.
What is your favorite piece of art or photograph in your home?
My mother-in-law, Joyce Heisen, is an amazing photographer, and our walls are filled with photos of our family, at different ages and places. I love being surrounded by these memories as I walk through my home. Perhaps my favorite is a series she did when our youngest was a newborn.
What is your happiest memory in your home?
Happiest and most surreal: Arriving home from the hospital after our second son was born, with a baby and a 3 1/2-year-old sleeping in the backseat. Who were these amazing creatures? And now, the sounds of my kids playing and laughing together. The simple stuff is the happiest.
Describe your home life in three words.
Full, loud, messy.
If you could change one thing about where you live, what would it be?
There would be more socioeconomic and racial diversity in the neighborhood. Fewer Porsches; more Kias.
If you could change one thing about your Jewish practice, what would it be?
Hmmm. I would know how to cook brisket?
Is there an active Jewish community near you? If not, how do you create your own? Yes, our synagogue, Kehillat Israel, is a vibrant source of community, learning and spirituality for me.
What’s one Jewish thing you do that defines your Jewish identity?
For me, it’s tikkun olam [repairing the world] — and I could definitely do more. And trying to remember gratitude.
What one moment stands out in your mind when you felt most connected to Judaism?
There are many moments — some positive, like listening to my son chant Ve’ahavtah at his bar mitzvah, and experiencing being part of a line of generations passing values to the next. And some are negative, reactionary, defensive, like hearing a person I liked say anti-Semitic things about someone else when she didn’t know I was Jewish. Some are a combination of both, like singing Sh’ma at Yad Vashem with my family and synagogue, a statement that no matter what happened we are still here.