“Jim… You There?”

Santa Claus Lane, Carpenteria, CA

THE Worlds We Loved Change

One of the joys found in creating a new novel is to bring to life places that once stood along the side of the road, or a neighborhood as we recalled it, or a gathering place that has stood with little change over decades, and then offer to the reader a chance to be in that place as if they can experience what I the writer did.

But the saying, “You can never really go home,” holds true. Time changes the places even if they stand the test of time. We can go there, linger there, and reminisce of friends past, events gone, and moments that changed us; at that very spot, but places change.

Or is it each of us? As time marches on the facades of buildings can become remodeled just as the human soul too can become. Landmarks testifying of our history with them may stand in the same place but dressed up a bit they have become someone else’s experience since we last walked down the steps, the drive, the sidewalk.

Experience and weathering the years means many things. When change inevitably comes we are aging with it. We make decisions that change the appearance of things around us, and though old friends may recognize us many decades later, we must pull on the doors of time — like portals through mortality — and go back with them to a place where we mutually experienced events that created a bond of friendship, brotherhood, or love.

Santa Claus Lane in Carpenteria, California stood forever it seemed to me, along the 101 Freeway just beyond Carpenteria proper and before Santa Barbara on the coast. It was a wonderful place, making memories for millions of coastal travelers over a lifetime.

The land has been converted to condominiums now. To people who never stopped there, or who are too young to have visited when it was the village of the “Famous Date Shake” and Christmas memorabilia — it means nothing. To the rest of us, it is a memory with laughter, smiles, and the innocence that only Christmas all year-round brings.

Writing is a way to bring things to life, relive them; the loves, emotions, dangers, happiness, innocence, and even calamities that really do happen to us all in life. It is a way to experience with well-developed characters a commonality that is simply this:

Life is filled with uncertainty except one–things, people, and places change. We can want everything to be frozen in time. We want our children to remain under our protective care and go on enjoying the sweetness with their childhood never-ending; the same sentiment that lights and magic of the Christmas holiday invariably invites into our hearts and minds.

But sometimes Santa Claus Lane will become a place that we no longer can drive by, stop for a milkshake, and smile as we recall the girl we once held hands with while on a date there.

And… sometimes the town store we loved remains. We can touch the building as a smile crosses our face. We see with aged eyes where we leaned our Schwinn bicycle with the banana seat up against the wall, and then sit on the stoop where we took breaks at the place Mr. Fransen gave us a chance to prove ourselves on our first job.

I always drive by the old house, the store, the schools, and the church building when I revisit my hometown of Simi Valley, CA — but I can never really go back.

My world has changed. I am not the person you knew at 18, or 25, or 40, or 55… The world of “Jim” has been added to and repaired where needed. Each person I loved — alive and dead — have their own worlds of life and experiences tucked away in photos and a book of life with ten thousand pages that I have not been a part of.

But, then… once in a while — the phone rings, an email arrives, or a text shows up. I smile, and I am once again where I long to be, in a world before the changes, as I see the words:

“Jim, you there?”