Monday, June 28, 2010

A Touch of Nostalgia

Old Highway 80 used to be the main drag if you wanted to cross the mountain from Alpine to El Centro . In those days Jacumba was a resort town, thriving with glamour and important people on their way to important places. Some the hot springs are still there but like the volcano it is built on the town has gone to sleep.

Our house was on a neat little street, lined next to dozens of others. From the front it could have any suburb but on the other side of the backyard was the rail road track from a hundred years ago and the yard itself was buried in desert sand from a flashflood a few decades ago. It was a place with layers of time and history poking out of the seams.

Growing up with a whole brood of siblings we spent a lot of time outside. We did the normal things like riding our bikes with the neighbor kids, running through sprinklers and organizing soccer games in the front yard but it was an hour's drive to the nearest grocery store and farther to the nearest movie theater. If we wanted to be entertained we had to be creative.

The summer reading program at the library was a real event; every kid showed up for the watermelon spitting contest. Our greatest excitement was the summer a movie was shot at the abandoned building across from Gift's in Things and we collected 'movie star' bullets off the streets when they were done. We had a tire swing in the back and later a tree house that we played dress up in for hours on end. Even my brothers and the neighbor boy --though they stayed away from most of the lacier costumes. Sometimes we had a three foot pool up in the yard. Sometimes we walked across the street to the brush field to kill time. Sometimes we just dug holes and buried objects we didn't care about hours deep in the sand.

Jacumba wasn't the place we lived the longest. It wasn't the smallest town, or the one furthest away from civilization but it was where I left my childhood.

When we moved to Jacumba I had my dad. When we left I didn't. When we moved to Jacumba all the world I needed was my family. When we left I knew I would need something bigger. When we moved to Jacumba I was small, safe, and happy. When we left I was approaching adolescence, uncertainty and moodiness. Like lava exploding from the earth's core I erupted down the mountain’s surface, smoldering and looking for a shape to cool into. Eventually I found one. Or something close enough. I adjusted to the busier, more chaotic world of adulthood but I was forged in a small sleeping town on top of the mountain. A place that used to be boiling with excitement. A place that could be again. A mountain with deep feet that reach all the way down the valleys of El Centro , each road smothered in my memories. A place where --for now --the world stands still.


  1. WHat a lovely post. I felt nostalgic reading it (and I never lived there!)
    I remember those days of spending all your time outside, on your bikes, playing with the neighborhood kids.

  2. Very beautiful and emotional writing!

  3. Gosh, Taryn, thanks for making me mist up.

    I lost my dad as a kid too-- it changes you in ways you can't even fathom and makes you grow up all of a sudden. Alpine is my Jacumba for that reason alone.

    Beautiful post.

  4. The piece has quite a few references (all appropriately placed and subtle enough) to time and its passage. That's perfect for a piece on nostalgia.