Home Sweet Home; Growing up in the Mountains

     I really wish I wasn’t listening to the sound of America’s future criminals right now, brought to me today by local neighborhood thugs to be. One day, one day I will live in a nice neighborhood again. A neighborhood surrounded by 100 year old pine trees, and not twelve year old mini gangsta’s. One day my porch won’t overlook the highway and five hundred Harley’s roaring through my neighborhood on the weekends. One day my neighbors won’t steal my hose to make meth; maybe one day I won’t have neighbors or they will actually be nice human beings? All I really guess I want is to live in a neighborhood like the one I grew up in. The house I grew up in, the only house to me that ever really felt like home, is going up for auction the day after my little brother gets married next week. One event makes me feel joyous, and the other heart broken, and no that has nothing to do with the fact my brother will chose to wear a kilt  on his wedding day.. (Just because he has red hair, when did he become Scottish?)
    I should thank America’s thugs in training for encouraging me to write these words today. It distracts me from the cursing coming from across the street, and the possible drug deal going on. Don’t these children have homework? Or parents who want them home for dinner? I guess this is life growing up in a ghetto neighborhood.
     When I was a kid, we had dinner around the kitchen table every night. My mom would make dinner from scratch, and every night we had a big salad. Nothing from the freezer hardly ever. My parents both worked full time, but my mom still had time to make healthy home cooked meals every night. I helped her of course, and I’m glad I did. I could not imagine a life where I did not love to cook. I just wish her love of sewing had rubbed off on me, but that is just not a “girl skill” I poses. Its sad to me that all these kids these days grow up on processed foods and fast food. When I was growing up we rarely, rarely had fast food. When we went off the mountain a few times a year as a family we would go to Tommy’s Burgers near Los Angeles as a treat when visiting family in L.A. That was about it.  My mom even made the homemade toll house cookies in our house from scratch, no boxed cookies for us. Thank you mom, for making me so picky about everything I eat, and for making me the foodie I am today.
     I grew up in a very foresty area of a rural mountain town. Our house was on the outskirts of town, about half a mile from the main highway and a mile outside the actual “town” of Running Springs, California. Our house was four houses from the forest. We had a family of raccoons that lived on our roof, and squirrels and Stellars Jays in the yard constantly. For such a foresty neighborhood we rarely saw coyotes, which was nice because we had a lot of cats, alot of them outdoor cats. At one point we may have had eight.
     We moved to the mountain community from the smog and graffiti of the Los Angeles suburbs when I was five. My little brother Sean was just a baby, and my other brother Andy was a year younger then I, at four years old. My Dad commuted to his job at a chemical plant off of Soto Street in Los Angeles for years and years after that and my mom began cleaning houses for celebrity’s like Patrick Swazye, Steve Cooley and Bernie Taupin in nearby Lake Arrowhead. (Little did my parents know at the time, I would grow up to be a Republican, gasp! And vote for Steve Cooley for District Attorney in 2010) My brothers and I spent our summers doing mountain kid stuff, splashing in the creek, collecting acorns, making race tracks for our trucks in the dirt in the yard, building homemade go carts and crashing them down our steep street, and creating trash can pools. Okay that was just me. Hey, we were poor, I was hot, and creative. 
     My Dad was out of work for what seemed like years in the late 80’s when Filtrol closed their plant. My family went from barely making it, to being officially poor. I see these people now with Coach purses and IPhones with EBT cards buying fillet mignon’s and twelve dollar a pound cheese and I think how did THEY get so lucky? That whole time growing up when my dad was out of work, my family never used food stamps. My parents drove us around in shitty cars. When my brothers cat was hit by a car, we traded in all the recycled cans we could find, practically skipping Christmas that year and paid for poor little Jackie to have his tail amputated. (After that we claimed he was a 2,000 cat) We kids climbed trees that winter, to collect mistletoe around Christmas time. We tied it up with string and sold it outside the Mountain Mercantile in town. We stood out in the freezing snow storm for hours trying to raise money so we could buy our mother one Christmas present that year. When my Dad took us school shopping in the fall, he would take us to the dollar tshirt store and we would each get to pick out three dollar tshirts. That is how you make ends meet when the economy is bad. Not by letting the government give you a free ride of EBT cards and all you can eat steak. Not that my family got in that situation by buying houses they couldn’t afford and maxing out credit cards at Abercrombie and Fitch like millions of Americans have recently.
     When I was a kid it felt like every week we were barely making it. My mom worked full time cleaning rich people’s houses with my Grandma. My dad helped them when he was unemployed to make a little money under the table. We kids had to entertain ourselves with none of the extravagances kids have today. We played Monopoly for hours. In the winter we built huge snow castles out of the feet of snow we would get out of every storm. We spent all day racing down our frozen street on our twenty year old toboggan sled. In the summer if we wanted to have fun that cost money my parents would say “Have a yard sale, sell your old toys” So that’s what we did. Yard sale’s seemed like a great idea for a struggling family until the time I dropped the eight track player my Dad was trying to pawn off to one of our neighbors. I can still remember he was so mad at me.
      “That was an antique!”
     To which my mom responded
     “No Jim, it was just left over 70’s junk” And that was the end of the yard sales. I started working with my mom and my Grandma cleaning houses when I was twelve. I would help dust and vacuum all summer long. The smell of Windex still reminds me of summertime. You know Bryer horses don’t buy themselves and I needed more, I was an addict! I’m glad my parents believed in child labor; they instilled a great work ethic in me.
     When my Dad did go back to work, he found work driving a truck for a long haul trucking company. He drove for Ragtime, between New Jersey, Texas and Florida. He drove with his Dad my Grandpa Jim for a while. They had left Filtrol at the same time, and both found their way to trucking together. Yeah, they don’t really get along; being stuck in a very confined space together for days at a time was not an excellent idea. 
     When I was a teenager, growing up in that house on Pinehurst my Dad was only home a few days a week. It gave us time to miss him when he was gone. When our family bought the house in the mid 80’s it was a tiny cabin. My parents expanded it at one point, a remodel that was never completely finished. They added on two extra bedrooms so my brothers could each have their own room and a two car garage to fill with my Dad’s collection of every shirt he owned from 1980, a broken eight track player and like 500 eight tracks; Home sweet home.
     Even though that house had hella problems, I loved growing up there, in that quiet neighborhood in the forest. My best friend lived two houses away up the street. We had a huge backyard and a ton of cats to play with. The creek was walking distance away and the forest really was our play ground growing up. Kid’s these days should be this lucky.

Comments

  1. opinion8dhermit

    This is one of my favorite posts of yours..mostly cause I can relate, as you know. I remember during a rough time, my family got rid of cable (can you imagine such a horror these days) and all my clothes were hand me downs. We drove shit cars (ok my parents still do) and slept on 15 year old sheets.it irks me when people complain of being poor but they have a nicer cell phone and purse than I do and I’m not poor. But anyways my actual point of this post was to not go on a tangent and to be all, yay mtn living (minus your gangsta neighbors). I loved trick or treating on Pinehurst and hoping to be early enough to get a cupcake from Dinora up the street. And I loved going to the creek with you!

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