jesusita-fireTwo firsts for me on this trip home:

1.) I rode a scooter all around town. I felt supremely emasculated on the thing, but I’m not so ashamed that I’d deny how fun it was. Even in the rain.

2.) I took said scooter up into hills of Santa Barbara and went to my childhood home site, the home having been a victim of the Jesusita Fire earlier this spring. (Picture on the right was taken near our old place)

I was interested in seeing what the effect was of seeing my own home site as nothing more than an empty lot. Having been in the fire service for more than a decade, I wondered even if it could jack me up, or would it just be another former home? I did a couple loops around the old hood, tracing old trails to and from our house. When the scooter finally wheezed it up the last hill to the house, it was a curious and new emotion. I wasn’t distraught or “left with a hole in my soul” or any such silliness. It had been almost twenty years since I’d last set foot on the property, since the subsequent owners of the place liked their privacy enforced by a gate. And like a slide show, different scenarios from my childhood played out over the old foundation. It seemed so much smaller, the entire property, not to mention the footprint of the actual house. In my memory the place was huge, a fortress on a hill, a fortress with lots of wood floors and encapsulated in Lincoln Towncar-sized windows. Now the size of the driveway was no more remarkable than the size of the mailbox: spectacularly average. The Christmas tree we planted in the early 80’s was one of a few left on the property, and while I smiled at the memory, I felt no urge to throw my arms around it and weep like a distraught lunatic.

Most of the property was wandered with filling in memories that I’d stored away, which is a better alternative than to be morose over the ghost of a house. Something then caught my eye as I was mentally recreating my former bathroom’s location. I stood up from where I’d been squatting (what the hell? I don’t remember the imaginary toilet facing east. Weird) and saw the faint red outlines of string lines for setting up the stud-walls where mom’s old closet was. Since I knew my stepdad had built the additions to the home, I knew they had to be the actual lines set up by the man who’d raised me. And despite the passage of all the time, the hideous outdoor landscaping undertaken by subsequent owners and eventual firestorm destruction, there was the hallmark of a master craftsman that had endured it all. I still have a good relationship with my step father and can talk to him whenever the mood strikes, but nothing on the lot spoke to me like the hidden traces of a carpenters’ marks, precise and perfect in his signature work ethic. It was a familiar face and made me smile.

I hope the next people who choose to build on the site have it done by such a carpenter. It made for a solid childhood home, even if not exactly fire proof.