For NaNoWriMo I was working on a memoir book. 1967- 1969, the years we lived in the mobile home park on the beach. A good twenty miles north of Malibu proper, it was a micorcosm of a setting for a few pivotal years of our family. Thought I'd share a smaller vignette.
“MOM! Look UP! Look up at Titty Mountain! It’s ME!”
From the top of the hill in the State Park, on the outer edge of the man made drop off of a cliff, I jumped up and down and waved my arms in the air. I did an Indian pow wow dance and a whirling dervish. Nothing was catching my mom’s attention. I stood for a moment contemplating her putzing around in our yard, completely oblivious that her eleven year old middle daughter was looking down on her from high above.
I stopped trying to gain my mom’s attention and just observed her for awhile. She looked so innocent and vulnerable and small from my vantage point. I felt an ache of tenderness for her. Pure love with a bittersweet edge.
Was it the altitude? The seeming godliness of my perch above the mobile home park and the Pacific Coast Highway on this clear fall day?
Fall was my favorite season to live on the beach; the elements seemed to jump out at you. Riding home from school I would sit on the right hand side of the bus where if I was to leap from the window I might have cleared the rocks and landed with a splash into the ocean. Sitting on the bus and watching the sunlight dance on the ocean’s surface like a swarm of dazzling sea fairies hypnotized me and encouraged my habit of daydreaming. One day a young classmate had sat down beside me, and with a mirror attached to the top of his shoe, gazed up at my panties for a bit of time. Until my friend Sarah saw him and punched his arm. I might never have noticed myself.
On this day, I’d had the heebie jeebies and needed to get out and about. I’d stopped over at Sarah’s, but she only wanted to lounge around her bedroom, listening to 45’s and eating snacks. She wanted to leaf through teen magazines and talk about boys. She was nearly two years older than I and was a little more boy crazy than your average 12 and a half year old.
I’d made up an excuse and ducked out of there. I hadn’t felt like returning home and lying around my own place any more than Sarah’s. At least Sarah’s mom left the girls’ bedroom alone and gave us some privacy. My mom could not stand to see people relaxing. It made her more nervous and anxious than her normal busy bee buzz.
Our beach was such a small little cove that at times it felt confining. My urge to be one with nature that day went beyond standing at the end of the pier and staring into the horizon, and even went beyond climbing along the rocks on the north side of the beach and watching the waves smash against the biggest boulders. Sneaking as close to the raging surf as one can.
No, what I needed that day was some real physical exertion and a sense of freedom.
So off I’d gone on my own to Titty Mountain.
Titty Mountain got its name from its appearance. The hills along the west side of Sycamore Canyon formed a ridge and there was a trail along the top. On one side you could look down at the Pacific Coast Highway, out and across the ocean. An eagle’s view. The other side of the hills sloped down into Sycamore Canyon itself. The beginning of which was the campground, but the canyon narrowed and went on and on and made its way all through the hills up and into the back of Newbury Park. A place I would be living four years from then, but I had no idea at the time.
The reason the edge of this range of hills looked like a big tit was purely man made. A section at the end had to be sliced off for the Pacific Coast Highway to pass around. The flat, brown cliff that occurred from this destruction of nature had the shape of a humongous boob. Something that looked like it could come to life and face off Godzilla in a Japanese film. At the pinnacle was a giant sagebrush. It looked exactly like a nipple sitting there on top. My friends and I had not named it Titty Mountain. It was already christened by those who had come before us.
The location of our mobile home at the outer edge of the park and right next to PCH was directly below Titty Mountain.
From my summit I could see directly into our back yard and whatever my mom was doing. She was oblivious to my shouting and I eventually tired of observing her. I let my eyes wander up and over the amazing horizon that I had all to myself.
Even at eleven I had a strong sense of and appreciation for infinite space. Standing on the edge of a cliff and looking out over the vastness of the ocean on an ethereal fall afternoon was a better high than what the older teens were doing down in some hidden hideaway. A part of me almost felt like I could lift my arms and soar like a hawk. The fact that during my childhood I had recurring dreams where I could fly, and had witnessed panoramic landscapes similar to my ledge on Titty Mountain’s summit, only increased the surreal feel of the moment.
I could also see south down the PCH. Brown, sage brushy hills rolled slowly into the hypnotic ocean of shifting blues and greens, with the winding black ribbon of highway separating the two giants and rippling towards the haze of Los Angeles.
I could almost feel the sensation from my dreams, the lift of flight. I raised my arms to my sides and closed my eyes to better feel the breeze on my face.
I’m not sure how long I was poised there on the edge of the cliff. But when I opened my eyes, and peered down again into our back yard, my mom had definitely noticed me. She was doing her own version of the pow wow rain dance whirling dervish. Her version involved finger wagging and hand signals. Gigantic mouthing of words, which, curiously, I could figure out.
“Get. The. Fuck. Off that ledge. Back off. What the fuck are you thinking? Do you want to give me a fucking heart attack?”
Maybe some other curse words thrown in. My mom really knew how to string them together when she was on a role. One of her talents I was proud to inherit.
For a moment I stood there, feigning innocence, leaned over the ledge a smite more to get a better look at her and pretended to listen more carefully with pantomimed hand behind my ear.
When I realized she had reached that crucial point where her eyes actually bulged out of her head like a cartoon, I backed off. I felt slightly guilty, especially remembering the tenderness I’d felt only moments ago for my mom.
But I did not go home right away. I followed the ridge along the top, walking parallel to PCH heading north. I passed by the first trail that zigzagged down into the campground and opted instead to keep going and head to another crest or peak where I could feel my spirits lift with the sky.
As mad as my mom was, I knew if I waited a couple of hours, by the time I got home she’d be well past her first few drinks for the night. She’d have taken a valium or three and she’d either be happy slosh or scary slosh, but sloshed all the same. My dad would be running late from work. Again. There would most likely be a huge fight when he finally arrived home and my mom would probably escalate to crazyville and suicide threats. This sad slow dance was becoming a regular routine. Just the night before she had walked around with a loaded gun, swirling it around her index finger and detailing how the next time we saw her we would be “picking her brains off the rails of the pier.”
My father had ignored her and continued to watch TV, so my sisters and I did likewise.
I settled down Indian style on another cliff to watch the sunset.