Childhood

Mar 9, 2009 at 2:13 PM
One of the things I miss about being a child is the newness of everything.

I remember being 5 and a HALF (stress on the half part) and coming to the lush green Willamette Valley, where we were moving.

I'd left my friends Crystal and Daniel (whom I still know) in LA. I was scared and excited about moving, but my parents assured me that Oregon was beautiful. I liked the idea of beautiful. I'd seen green lush farms in books, and I'd played "country living" with little plastic people. You know, Hasbro or Lego or some such had a farm set where the little people could ride in buses or be set into the tiny square holes with round pegs that were made for them and be in the barn's loft or on the haycart. Or sitting on the cow or whatever. They all looked like 1950s musical versions of country folk, except square and squat. I thought of farmers then as little plastic people, with little plastic cows, and that they'd all be short and fat, like the dolls had.

But reailty for me was a small part of Central Hollywood at that time. Growing up in LA, you think greenery is always in tiny square spaces between blocks of cement. And that most plants are palms of some kind, aloes, or some other cactus-like plant. You think air is always yellowish brown and thicker in the distance. You can't see more than a few city blocks away, and everything is measured in houses, squares of sidewalk, and the distance to the corner store or gas station. The good neighborhoods were easy to spot because they had fewer bums living in their dumpsters. And the greatest mystery in life was what was on the other side of the Hollywood sign. In my small, little world, the temple in the sky was the Griffith Observatory. Rivers were paved. Everyone knew that. They were just bigger drains, and if it ever rained much, you'd see some yellow, stingingly warm water at the bottom of it. And you'd run around in it and whoop.

When we got to Oregon, and our little piece of land - 32 acres - was presented to me, I got out of the car into my own personal Eden. Moss and cherry trees, saplings and daffodils were all new to me. Even cool breezes were new to me. And it was all so precious and beautiful. Air felt deep and full of green life. Breathing in too deeply, in those first few weeks, would actually give me a head rush, so unused to real, oxygen rich air was I. I was swept up into the lush hidden spots. My parents regularly couldn't find me, and I was invariably finding new shaded glens to sing and read and think about life in.

Even at five, I was quite good at philosophizing. I new good and evil apart, I could tell shallow and flighty as bad, and I recognized the truly worthwhile in life, and I new I'd found it for myself. I was never, never ever, not even if my folks moved back, going back to California.

I recall my childhood Oregon as greener than the Oregon of today, as lusher, softer, more full of wonder and possibility. It may well have been. It was shortly after Mt. St. Helens blew, and the ash had enriched the soil with nitrogen far in excess of necessary levels. I didn't know that. All I knew was that we had scooped the ash out of our rain gutters so the rain could fall. And fall it did, into more than just gutters and paved riverbeds. It flowed and found paths through mud and rock and moss, through treeroots and over grass, turning patches of grass into waving green flags.

When I found some secret reading spot, I remember thinking that if fairies were in America, they would live in the rotted stumps and creeping vines of my little piece of heaven, for sure.

It was the first place I ever felt truly at home.

Perhaps that's why, a few years after my first divorce, I packed up every piece of my life to move back here.

And I don't regret it. Every childhood should have some magic and wonder in it. And you sure don't get that from living in a city, staying indoors and playing Super Mario Cart meets Lethargo Man or Lethal Chocolate Car Theft Massacre III. You get that from digging in mud to find salamanders, from cracking the ice open on puddles to find frozen fall leaves, from scavenging for blackberries for your afternoon snack, from rolling down wheat fields in the summer sun, and from biking on gravel.

I am glad I can provide this for my daughters.

3 comments

  1. Aaaah. Wish I'd have grown up in the country. The suburbs were nice though. Making mud pies after the rain was so much more fun than playing "Lethal Chocolate Car Theft Massacre III". :-) When I was a kid, making up the game we were going to play was half the fun.

  2. Mr.Pete. Says:

    Only one comment?!? What is wrong with these people?!
    The way you describe LA is what I saw when I moved to So Cal from Indiana - alien landscape. And about those video games, they're not real are they? Say it ain't so!

  3. desi Says:

    @MrPete - No they are definitely not real. I made them up.

    SOmehow since that childhood I've moved back to LA twice. TWICE! Beats me why. But I keep on leaving again. Maybe I can find a city that strikes my fancy, but for now I love my pioneer life.