The thing about the suburb depicted in Tim Burton’s film, Edward Scissorhands, is not that it’s wrong, it’s just that it’s weird. There is a surreal quality to it that is unsettling. The viewer enters the neighborhood like Edward, as an outsider. But, everything in life seen from the outside is slightly skewed because until you are on the inside, it’s impossible to understand what the reality, and not the perception of reality, actually is.

I am constantly reminding myself of that fact since my arrival on the border. In the past eleven years we have moved eleven times and to make those numbers even more impressive, six of those eleven years were spent in just two residences. I know that when you uproot yourself there is an adjustment before you feel like you belong, before weird seems normal. My adjustment here on the fringes of the country is going to take a bit longer.

Although Mikey warned me that Roswell, New Mexico was not impressive, I didn’t believe him. It was only as I drove down the main street through town that I realized how right he’d been. My disappointment was colossal. There was nothing supernatural or even campy about it, unless you consider endless concrete strip malls strange. To me it was simply wrong that they existed in that mythical place. The presence of their characterless uniformity made Roswell exactly like everywhere else when I had wanted it to be so much more. After The Boy and I arrived at our hotel I searched for an alien themed restaurant to treat myself and The Boy after our long trek and revive my fading romanticism of the town [probably rooted in this guilty pleasure from my teenage years.] I am sorry to tell you, there are none. I stopped on my way out the next morning to take a picture of Alien Zone, which is just a block down from the International Alien Museum and Research Center, but by then the damage had already been done, my disillusionment was complete. The flock of sheep standing beneath irrigation sprinklers in the thick morning fog a few miles outside of Roswell was the eeriest thing about it.


A couple of hours later I saw an animal dart into the street toward a truck a few yards ahead of me, I wasn’t sure what it was, but I saw it return to the side of the road after the truck swerved out of the way. As I drew up to the crouching form, a crazed looking dog ran straight at me as I was traveling 75 mph to, as I could best ascertain, herd my car. I slowed and then stopped, completely unnerved by the maniacal animal who stared straight into my eyes, challenging me. I was grateful there were large pieces of metal and glass between me and the possibly rabid dog. I slowly edged around it and, it let me, I guess satisfied that my little white car was not, in fact, a stray sheep. I looked in my rearview mirror as I drove away and saw that it resumed it’s ready-to-pounce stance on the side of the highway.

I spent hours on a badly paved two lane road passing oil drills bobbing up and down, kowtowing to imaginary Kings with only The Boy and semi trucks for company. At one point my directions became almost impossible to follow and I worried that I’d become lost. Then I remembered I was going to the border of Mexico, as long as I was driving south, I’d get there eventually.

I entered West Texas and things suddenly began to change. The flat expanse with no houses, towns or people spotted by spiky cactuses turned into rolling hills and then mountains with distant ranches tucked between them. It was a surprise and it was beautiful. We stopped on the side of the road to take a picture and when I stepped out of the car, the air was warm and fresh, more at home on a spring day than mid-December.


I wound through yellow fields of grass dotted with rocks and cacti. In a sunny valley, I gave a bicycle adventurer, who was literally 100 miles from anything, a wide berth as I passed him and he waved cheerfully wishing us well on our way.

It was strange, it was different, but I loved it.

Small towns with West Texas charm sprouted every 50 to 100 miles. Border Patrol trucks became more frequent and the grassy fields turned to beautiful tree-less deserts guarded by cows and to my amusement, a pair of camels. An ancient white-washed Mexican church appeared in a ghost town set between two hills, it’s bell tower rising high above a handful of foreign deciduous trees with bright yellow leaves. It is wide, open and beautiful here. I kept saying to myself, “West Texas, I think I love you.” I was unexpectedly elated.

The feeling continued until I turned at the mountains that led to our new town. Our town is . . . less picturesque than everything around it, but it is our new home. The Boy was very pleased when he realized, “We live in Radiator Springs!”

We spent our first night reunited as a family in a comfortable trailer but a house had recently become available and we would be moving the next day.

When we drove down the street of our new neighborhood for the first time I could not help but notice that the houses were all exactly the same, just with varying shades of what I considered odd color choices. The two other government neighborhoods have charming nicknames (the one directly behind us is “the snake pit”). I asked Mikey if this neighborhood had a name. There wasn’t one that he knew of. Edward Scissorhands, I told him.


My New Neighborhood

edward scissorhands - pastel houses[1]

Edward’s New Neighborhood

It isn’t just the neighborhood that feels reminiscent of the movie, it is my position as an outsider and the overwhelming novelty of my surroundings. Everything here is foreign to me. I am not only outside the culture of the town, but I am also new to the culture of the government law enforcement presence here. I really felt like I’d just come down from my secluded gothic mansion on the hill. The landscape, the people, the language is all so foreign. It is like I am living in another country, although Mexico is still another mile down the road.

Walking through our new, very comfortable, house felt like being on a movie set. I surmised the house had been built in the 60’s but later discovered that it’s only ten years old. The Army Corps, who built it, seemed to have mastered time travel, going back decades to find light fixtures, vent covers and bathroom tiles from eras long past. It seemed to fit perfectly in this odd world and I loved it.

At church on Sunday (it’s 90 miles away and we have to pass through a Border Patrol check point to get there) somebody said, “Oh, you live in the gated community?” I smiled inwardly, amused that anyone would consider an eight foot chain-link fence topped with barbed wire to be a “gated community.” I think the word “compound” is more accurate. The children, who abandon their bicycles everywhere, climb to the summit of the neighborhood rock pile with the Mexican mountains as the backdrop of their “King of the Mountain” victory.


(That’s Mexico in the distance.)

The night is often filled with the chorus of the three-legged Chihuahua gang that patrols our neighborhood during the day. They hobble around looking tiny but formidable, a thorn stuck in one of each of their paws, too macho to ask for help. (I am slightly concerned our resident Schnauzers are going to be peer pressured into joining them.)

The nearest big box store, a non-super Walmart, is 150 miles away, the nearest one after that is four hours in the opposite direction. But, we can “shop” at our own Prada store (100 miles away and actually just an art installation) and we only have to drive 60 miles to watch hipsters hobnobbing at art galleries.


It is a strange world we’ve entered. There is much to love, much to be amazed by, and much to learn. . . but the fish out of water feeling is still there. I still feel like Edward, wide-eyed and overwhelmed, completely naive to the way things work around here. Although I do not have scissors for hands, I am certainly as pale as Edward is to the majority of the town residents. Nearly everyone here speaks Spanish. The old Mexican cowboys frequently try to engage The Boy and I at the Post Office but the only thing I’ve been able to decipher, as I smile and nod, is, Feliz Año. The people of West Texas are very generous and friendly. We have happily been ambushed by two of our neighbors carrying impressive displays of cookies and friendly welcomes. At the library, the grocery store and the city offices they graciously (and impressively) switch to English for me but I know that as long as they do that, I will remain, like Edward, on the outside.

But, I don’t really want my life to emulate the end of that movie. I don’t want to run back to my gothic mansion with a mob of angry suburbanites . . . or cowboys after me. I want weird to become normal. I want to belong.

(If you have never seen Edward Scissorhands and want to see the entire plot of the movie in two minutes, check out this trailer here. The strangeness really captures my current fish out of water, surreal existence.)