Thursday, August 23, 2012

The last column I wrote for the Acorn (for now). It's a departure piece before college, trying to tap on a sudden intense nostalgia I had for home. This was one of the submissions that earned the 2nd place finish at the 2012 CNPA awards.

Find the article here. Find the link to the PDF version of the print layout here. Or...

Archaeological dig through life brings college-bound student home

I’m only 18, but I grew up in prehistoric times.
I lived along a riverbed, just past the mouth of a waterfall where small dinosaurs drank. A stegosaurus family lived next to me, and I loved their kind nature but was wary of their spiky tails.
Off towards the hillside there was a large volcano. When I was entering the first grade, it erupted, sending the triceratops into a stampede and the T. rexes into a hunting frenzy.
Pterodactyls glided over my head during the day, weaving in and out of the large symphony of trees and creatures. And at night I was able to look up and see the clearest stars I’ve ever seen in the dark sky. This was my home.
Leslie Nix, an artist and friend, painted dinosaurs on the walls of my bedroom when I was 6. I had an obsession with them. By age 7, my life’s goal was to become an archaeologist.
But now I can barely see those walls. Layers of old clothes, piles of knickknacks and dirt line the floors and sides. It looks like there’s been a robbery, but instead of taking things, the robbers added more.
As evidenced by the mess, my interests have moved on from dinosaurs. The walls don’t seem to matter much anymore.
But this past week, I looked back on my dinosaur days. I have to move out of the room for the first time in my life, leaving it for a college dorm.
The day after this column is published, I’ll be gone.
I figured that, before I go, I should clean out my room one last (or first) time.
I stood in the doorway, let go of the worries about my future and took the plunge.
Swimming amongst the old clothes, I threw piles of dirty briefs out the door and kept pushing through.
As I dug, I soon realized that all the stuff formed layers of my life. Like an archaeological site, the finds near the bottom were older and the ones toward the top more recent.
I’d just turned 18 a couple days earlier. Now legally grown-up— and having decided to become the archaeologist I always wanted to be “when I grew up”—I had to dig until I found the dinosaurs.
I sorted old physics projects, Nike shoes and novels from high school. I tossed out the door my track and field sweatpants, which I remember wearing over my tired, cold legs while singing Celine Dion’s “The Power of Love” with friends on the way home from meets.
I stumbled upon my old ID card from the seventh grade at Los Cerritos Middle School. My number was printed at the bottom: 574243. I must have said it 574,243 times during those years. I could barely remember it now. That was a little saddening. I dug again.
I found several stuffed animal prizes from Conejo Valley Days. Whenever I went to the carnival, it was always one of those hot days when I argued with my mom to turn on the air conditioning.
Soon, I found the “Crazy Bones” game that I played with my Lang Ranch Elementary buddies for hours on end. Sometimes my mom would take me to Zany Brainy before it closed to buy more pieces for the game. I couldn’t wait for those days, and I miss that childhood excitement.
After a few hours, everything was cleared and sorted. I had gone through my childhood in Thousand Oaks and realized how good it really was.
Night was beginning to fall as the light from my window faded. I was exhausted. The room was quiet. I fell asleep.
When I awoke, the room was completely dark except for the glowing stars in the night sky. I turned on my lamp.
The T. rex gave a loud roar from behind a sharp shadow cast across the room. The stegosaurus to my right curled its tail in defense. I could smell the dirt, hide and plants everywhere. The age of the dinosaurs, my age of the dinosaurs, was as it once was. There were no walls, no worries, just a home.
Home, for me, is catch in the backyard with Dad. It’s going to Zany Brainy with Mom. It’s singing with Celine Dion in a warm car.
It’s the place where the past, present and future form together to shape and create a life, where anxieties or excitements are forgotten, where I can remember and be myself. I’m home here, and I hope to find home again in the future.
Today, I watched as the extinct artifacts of my life from 12 years and 200 million years ago came alive. Tomorrow . . . who knows.
I wish to give my hometown the most appropriate send-off I know—the send-off of a Lang Ranch wrangler. Happy trails, Thousand Oaks. Until we meet again, this has been, is and always will be your old pal, Dashiell Fellini Young-Saver. Happy trails . . .
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