Monday, April 13, 2009

Welcome to Hell, Honey! You'll love it here.

When I was 13 years old, my dad was laid off from his job. He spent ten long months out of work, searching the Want Ads every day. Finally, he found a job as a technical illustrator working for a government contractor; it meant decent pay, great benefits, and they were even willing to pay for our move. The only catch? It was in the middle of the (God forsaken) Mojave Desert, about 90 miles from any other town or city.

He went to work right away and spent a month living with his boss, coming home only on weekends, so that he could do a little house-hunting first. So, in April 1981, we left our normal little house (that looked almost identical to this) .... something like this:

Okay, so I am exaggerating a bit. BUT JUST A BIT. And? The surrounding area wasn't nearly as lush. NO trees. Just tumbleweeds and dirt. Lots and lots and lots of dirt.

To give an example of how bad it was: We pulled up to the house, and I can still picture my make-the-best-of-things/child-of-the-Depression/extremely-understanding-and-low-maintenance mother turning her head to the right, looking out the window for a brief moment at "the house," turning back, then looking straight ahead saying, "WE ARE NOT STAYING."

28 years later, and I can still picture it like it was yesterday.

The moving truck was sitting right behind us. I remember the movers asking my mother, "Where do you want the piano, Ma'am?" and her curtly answering, "It doesn't matter. WE ARE NOT STAYING."

Oh, my poor mother. She had never asked for much in life. Her idea of a dream home was a modest, pale yellow ranch style with a white picket fence out front. SERIOUSLY. That was all she ever wanted. Just a nice little home adorned with her beautifully simple and tasteful hand-sewn curtains, pansies & geraniums adorning the walkway in clay pots, and a roast in the oven welcoming her family to dinner every Sunday night. She didn't expect much. She could've won the lottery, and still, that would've been her idea of a dream home. So at nearly 60 years old, this was the best my father could give to my mother? Really? Out of work for ten months or not, I can assure you--we were not ready to live like THAT.

My mother was pretty certain that my dad had walked into the house, immediately turned around, looked directly out the windows at the magnificent view (I will give it that--BUT ONLY THAT), saying, "We'll take it!"

The Sierra Nevadas were sprawled out right in front of "the house," looking exactly like this:

Except they were in color. A-ha, ha, ha! I kill myself.

So, let me explain this "house" to you. My mother figured it had once been an old miner's shack--you know, being that it was so luxurious and all. Someone had added on the front livingroom, which--I kid you not--was about 20 feet long with RED CEMENT FLOORING. There was a concrete step up from the livingroom into the _____ room (I have no idea what this next room was supposed to be), and up on the wall next to that step was an OUTSIDE PORCH LIGHT. Yes, inside the living room. All of the windows were varying sizes, so we assumed that the architects had used whatever glass they could find and cut out the holes for the windows accordingly. How clever! Oh, and extra handy was that the washing machine hook-up was also in said livingroom. We could wash our clothes while watching t.v., reading, or playing the piano, and then drag the laundry into the garage to dry (where that hook-up was). How utterly convenient!

The kitchen had stone floors which might have been quaint had they not matched the STONE COUNTERTOPS. I am talking large, jagged, miscellaneous-sized rocks--not marble, or granite, or anything you would find in a normal dwelling. Oh, heavens no! These were large craters that someone had likely drug in from outside--the way a cat would drag in a dead mouse to show its owners. Except not as attractive. Nothing would sit evenly on the counters; I can't tell you how many glasses we broke during our time there. I felt like I'd entered a real-life episode of the Flintstones, and, friends... it wasn't pretty. And Fred & Wilma were nowhere to be found.

Remember the ROOM that led up and off of the livingroom? That's where my parents' bed had to go because it was too big for either of the two "bedrooms," which were smaller than standard-sized walk-in closets. So, we used one bedroom as a closet, and the other held my twin-sized bed and nothing else. Not even my dresser.

The bathroom was especially darling. At first glance, it appeared normal; I mean, it even had laminate countertops! Wowza! Welcome to the 20th Century, right?! Yet, inside the vanity directly under the sink, we couldn't actually store anything because there was GRASS GROWING. I don't remember why, but I do remember the grass. In fact, I will never forget it.

My dad was lucky he was married to my mother, The Saint. Because if my husband had taken me to a place like that? I would've had to kill him in his sleep. Simple as that. No second chances... nothing. Instant death. The End.

So, anyway, here I was--13 years old, and my dad has not only taken me away from my school, my friends, the beach, the malls, anything GREEN... but now I was living in some kind of high-end miner's shack in the middle of nowhere.

My normally even-tempered, pleasant mother and I were in a continual state of either amazement or horror in the weeks following. I remember walking to the post office one day, for nothing better to do than request our very own post office box. (Gone were the days of browsing through South Coast Plaza, or hanging out on the shores of Huntington Beach.) However, what we didn't realize yet was that we'd apparently moved to a darker version of good ol' Mayberry, U.S.A.! There was a hand-written sign on the door that read, "CLOSED FOR LUNCH. BACK AT 1:00."

Finally, something to laugh about! (Or had we just tired of crying?)

Next we walked to this store, which is still in business today:

Darling, don't you think? It's fully stocked with antiques, saddles, bridles, feed, boots and Breyer horses. JUST LIKE South Coast Plaza! Right.

After three weeks, we finally moved out of Hicksville--up the road into the (somewhat) more modern and civilized town where I still live today. I never thought I'd stay, but like many here, have found that there are so many things to love about it (surprisingly enough). Not only is the economy thriving (most of town is employed by the Department of Defense, or its contractors), but the air is clean, most days are sunny, we are just a few hours from L.A., Vegas, hiking, camping, and fishing, and the people are absolutely incredible. There's something about this remote town that makes us all like one, big happy family. A dysfunctional family, but a family, nonetheless.

Now that's not to say it's without faults: I could certainly live without the 70 mph wind gusts we so often have (the trees literally grow at a slant!), and the summers that regularly get above 100 degrees--sometimes reaching as high as 120+. AND YES IT'S A DRY HEAT BUT I DON'T SEE ANYONE WANTING TO HANG OUT IN THEIR OVENS, DAMNIT! (Oops, sorry for that little outburst. The dry heat has eaten away at the part of my brain that controls emotions.)

So, that's my little story (You're like, "LITTLE? What part of that was LITTLE? I just lost five hours of my life that I'll never get back!") about how I came to live in the middle of nowhere and actually love it. See? Even Hell on Earth can have a fairytale ending.

Who woulda thunk?


(Enough of the "Thank You, Sweet Jesus" stuff already. I GET IT.)



dons_mind said...

lol great post! smiled all the way through it.....i think i've been there a couple of times - - mojave and nellis were a couple of my favorite places to visit when i was doing the travelling govt contractor thing (i'm still a govt ctr, but don't travel anymore)....

anyway - completely enjoy reading your post!

big hair envy said...

We live in the middle of nowhere....I SWORE I'd never move back. Famous last words!!!!

Please send me some of that wonderful heat...I'm ready to get summer rolling:)

Life with Kaishon said...

You are such a wonderful writer! I love this story! I love your mother : ) I love that you moved after just three weeks amd you remember every.single.detail of that house. That had to be traumatic on so many levels! Oh yes it did!

Busy Bee Suz said...

I love this part of your life you guys only lasted 3 weeks??? bless you both...:)
Perhaps the grass in the bathroom was not real grass? maybe some other type of grass.
So funny how you remember all the crazy details of this little shack.
I can see how living in a small town has it's appeal. Where we live now, I consider being small after we spend so much time in Dallas and Phoenix. I run into the same people over and over here...I can't get away from them!!! :)
Thanks for wrote this soooo well.

Jason, as himself said...

Wow. And I thought the house I grew up in was wack-o. This was fabulous. At least you didn't have to stay there long!