The Town Where You Live
I like to think of myself as having had two childhoods. My first, where I was born, was in Fresno, CA, the “dodgy end” to put a polite spin on it. I laugh when people describe Fresno as “the sticks” or something like that. I was in the city proper, which is a bit more like East LA. At the time, it was typical, I thought. The only white people I saw were teachers and police officers and a very few unfortunate that lived in our neighborhoods. Generally, everyone was brown and a few were black and that had virtually nothing to do with how they were treated. What would make or break you was what street you lived on. Mom had us situated on the safe parts of the blocks. In one neighborhood, all the gang members and shootings and such happened way down the block. In another, they were on the street behind us. Drug dealers were always a street over and if you just didn’t step on the drunk homeless guy sleeping against the Esee Market wall on the way to Kindergarten, you were fine.
So you can imagine my utter culture shock when my parents moved to San Diego county (I won’t even tell you about the Reservation where we lived a few times). They divorced and my Mom proudly took most of us kids with her back to her hometown, Poway. (Pronounced Pow-way, not Poh-why, btw.) [Bam: Ugh, Poway. I grew up there, too. I don’t know if we should high-five or give each other commiserating hugs.] Population…well, it felt like about 500. Mom was so excited because the town newspaper had expanded beyond one page to six! Oooooh! And nary a brown person to be found. Let me assure you, folks, I’m BROWN. Almost cocoa. And I was in a sea of cowboy hats, boots and had to share the crosswalk with five year olds riding their horses. The highlight of the year there was the Rodeo day parades in September. RO-DE-O.
I was pretty sure that I was in Hell.
And so began my second childhood. It took a long time to adjust, I have to admit. I was the only one who ducked at car backfire for years. And all these people trusted the police instead of avoiding eye contact and evading. And of course, everyone seemed to know everyone else. After the first two years, I finally realized I’d never be going back “home”. And you know, the lack of trains and sirens at night got to be kind of nice. After the third year, I realized no one had stolen anything from my front porch. Why…this wasn’t so bad after all. There were even other brown people moving into town.
Years went by and the town changed. It grew, as small towns tend to do. We got a Wal-mart and a Target and a movie theatre that had more than one movie room. Restaurants came to town. All kinds of folks moved in. Cowboy hats got a bit fewer, but Rodeo Days was a serious hell of a party. By the time I moved away, my small town had more than doubled and I found myself kind of longing for those quiet summer days, everyone knowing everybody, where they lived and where they’d been all day. It was kind of idyllic, as memories tend to be.
So one day, I started writing, a story about a firefighter and the girl next door, but I needed to put them in a place where the world wasn’t so big. Where everyone would tease them about the romance they weren’t having on purpose. And I remembered Poway, my Poway, with its brushy mountains and rocky hills, where kids rode horses and bikes all over the place all day long and where the worst thing that could happen to you was falling down or getting caught doing something embarrassing at the community center. [Bam: Or get pantsed in the park in front of the boy you love by some bitchy stick-eyebrowed whores who call you “Ching-chong-chang.” But that’s a story for another time. And my shrink.]
That’s when Rancho Del Cielo was born. I nestled it on my San Diego map between Poway and an even horsier town called Ramona. A little bit of my better childhood that I hadn’t appreciated as much as I should have, preserved for all time.
The story didn’t go anywhere, but it was my first ever romance novel that I submitted anywhere. Eventually, I had to shelve it and move on, but in my heart, Rancho Del Cielo remained. About six years later, I started another book, a comedy about a tomboy who turns to her best friend to help her become a “real girl”, and accidentally falls in love with him and I thought, you know, I can just see Cass and Burke living in RDC. Especially when the betting started in the story. “Betting Hearts” was my first ever book to get published and my inner kid rejoiced that other people might get to know the town where my heart lived.
A few more years went by and I started hearing the whispers from under the bed, where my shelved books lived. The book talking turned out to be Josh and Miranda, the firefighter and his girl next door. So, since I felt homesick, I went back to RDC. Josh and Miranda had a much different story to tell this time around—someone is trying to kill them this time! Oh noes!—but RDC was exactly the same. A little good, a little bad, a lot nosy. It felt good to go home again.
So what about you, when you think about being a kid, do you remember your hometown fondly or do you thank God you escaped?
Everyone who comments is entered for a random drawing to receive and eCopy of Josh and Miranda’s story, “Love Me Tomorrow”, which comes out Feb 3rd from Samhain Publishing. Two winners will be drawn. If you want to know about the book or want a second chance to win, I’m also running a Trailer Contest on my blog, just click over to check it out!
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