My Neverland
by Reed Gabrielson
25 March 2007

The icy wind bites at my cheek as I drive though the empty lot. I kick dust and debris to the side sheepishly with no heed. Yes, I remember this spot quite well. The lot itself appeared many times smaller than I had once remembered. It: amazing what time and politics can do. I drop my head in dismay as a lone tear meanders down my cheek.

To the slam of a door, I take off running to my grandparent's house. It was a small house strewn with scrap metal, plants growing amok, and rusted yard fixture, but to me, it was the place where magic happened. Traveling through the immense jungle that was the backyard, a child could be a 'marauding pirate, a soldier stalking through a jungle, or Peter Pan protecting his Neverland.

1n this yard the plant life consumed every orifice available. These plants spoke of adventures I had in their shade. My grandmother zealously protected and nurtured their delicate souls like lost children who have now been found. Many times she would try to explain the many species that she had possessed; each and everyone was different and all the more exotic. Her tiny figure paced back and fourth across uneven pavers while my grandfather stood steadfastly by her side, supporting all of her endeavors in the back yard, His pale-whit hair blew in the soft, warm breeze that permeated the atmosphere.. His gnarled hands spoke of hard days of arduous work, and taught many lessons.

Nestled within the myriad of the plant jungle that was the backyard, there lay a rickety, rod-iron swing. Here, my grandpa and I spent summer afternoons sitting in that chair. The summer heat would be pierced by the dense foliage that surrounded us. While grandma made an afternoon feast, my grandpa and I sat there just rocking in silence. This is the place that a child dreamed of staying forever. It was my Neverland.

The cruelties of the world had slowly shattered the innocence of my child hood within seven years. My life became consumed with the plague of living. Childhood imagination became a distant dream; broken, used up, and non-existent. The Neverland I had once1oved was pushed to the back of my mind and out of sight. I had misplaced the wonderful memories that had permeated that magical place. One day, my mother informed me that the city was encroaching on my grandmotherís property. The dreaded "eminent domain" clause, the weapon of choice, had claimed my grandmother's house. Cheerfully my parents claim that it was a good thing. "Who would want to live in that rickety old shack anyway? The city is going to buy grandma a brand new house close by!" my mother said.

After awhile, the idea became a reality and I accepted this gift of my grandmother living much closer Within a month my grandmother was moved into her new home just a few miles away from my house and her old house was now the property of Huntington Beach. The months dragged on and this horrible abuse of power became a thing of the past.

My mother, father and 1 step out of the gym at Huntington Beach high school. We had been there to watch my high school's wrestling team duel. Once we reached the car, my father asked if I wanted to see my grandmother's old house. I thought, sure, this could be interesting. So we scuttled out of the parking lot and towards the o1d house. As we turn the final corner I see the empty lot in the distance getting larger and larger. We finally arrive and I step out of the car. The bone-dry ground crunches under my sneakers as I walk towards the ominous chain link fence which surrounds the lot. I reach the fence and peer through its links as I it was a port-hole into Hell. What has happened to my Neverland? The sudden rush of memories swamp my head like a dam had collapsed. T'ears well in my eyes and my knees give out, dropping me to the floor. The bulldozers that took away my Neverland also ripped out a piece of my heart. My memories.

I always look back to this moment as the time when my life changed. Before, I had been living in a dream world where everything was perfect and nothing could have affected me. With the signing of a paper, the city took away a magical world where I had spent much of my childhood, and in which rested most of my happy memories. Now I see how cruel the world can be. Because of this horrible experience, I learned that the faceless nemesis that is the city does not care about such memories of happiness. In this day and age, there should be more people that would care about Neverland.

Bruce Gabrielson Note: Reed's grandfather Carl Gabrielson was not in good health when the City of Huntington Beach used their power to take his home. The pressure was too much and he subsequently passed on before moving to the new home. The lot is still vacant two years after the city bulldozed it. One other item is the lot wat 14 acre and had another building on it. The old red building located behind their home was the oldest existing structure in Huntington Beach. It pre-dated the Newland House by over 10 years. The city was informed of the historic significance but couldn't wait to knock it down as well. Shame on Huntington Beach.