Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Castles with Axles

It didn't occur to me that the mode of abode for most of my young life might have been atypical, déclassé, or second-rate.   I never gave it much thought.  Call it what you will: mobile home, manufactured home, prefabricated house…it was always simply a “trailer” to me.  When I was in third grade, my family moved from a rent house into a brand-spanking new trailer.  And it was so cool. 

It was the early 70s, and bold earth-tones dominated middle-class style.  The aluminum siding on the trailer was white, with brown and orange shutters and trim.  Inside, shag carpeting moved like fire, all over the floors in vibrant orange, gold, and brown, save for the slightly-elevated floor of the kitchen, which denied the flame with its mushroom-brown surface.

Plus, the house came with its own groovy-cool furniture: two swivel-rockers covered in saffron crushed-velvet accented with white buttons, a matching headboard for my parent’s king-sized bed, and harvest-gold kitchen appliances in stark relief against pearly-white cabinets.  I immediately fell in love with the place. 

During my time in our trailer, I experienced some of the most lasting memories of my childhood:

·        Producing, directing, and starring in plays and musicals in our backyard (yes, I was, and am, just that gay)
·        Watching my mom’s fish give birth to speck-sized guppies in our large tank on the kitchen bar
·        Helping my dad build a plywood shed for our riding mowers
·        “Playing sick” on winter mornings by placing a thermometer on the floor heater vents, so I could cut class and watch TV gameshows all day
·        Spinning for endless hours on the candy-apple red merry-go-round that my dad built for us
·        Playing baseball with my buddies so late in evening that pitches became bruise-inflicting grenades in the disappearing sunlight  
·        Calming my sister, who would wake me in the middle of stormy nights, asking, “Hey…do you hear a train?”  She thought that sound was a tornado’s voice, and firmly believed that mobile homes were twister-magnets.
·        Proving my theory that Santa was a big hoax by silently observing my dad putting presents under the tree in the wee hours of Christmas morning

We moved from the trailer when I was in eighth grade, and as happy as I was to move into the trailer, I was just as happy to move out of it, and into our new ranch-style house in the adjoining lot.  My honeymoon with the trailer was over, I had the five-year itch, and the grass, which was only 300 feet away, looked so much greener.

My grandparents moved into the trailer, so I visited often.  But it was no longer my trailer.  I’d moved up in the world, and my love affair with the trailer was over.  My grandmother passed away while she still lived there.  And my grandfather lived there as long as he could, before his move to assisted-living, due to the debilitating dementia of Alzheimer’s. 

I would live in a trailer once more in my life.  Shortly after I was married, my wife and I bought a mobile home from my aunt.  The home was across the way from my parents’ house and, as a result, my old trailer, as well.  It was comforting to see my two former cribs from my new bedroom window.

When my marriage ended, I got custody of my new trailer.  When I decided to move to Houston, I toyed with the idea of transporting the mobile home to a trailer park in the city.  But then, my city friends told me that trailer parks in the city were not lower-middle class; most parks were upper-lower class at best.  So I sold my trailer to my sister, and she became a Louisiana landlord.  Parting with the new trailer was not difficult.  It hadn't been my first love.

All these memory bubbles came up when my husband mentioned an interview that he heard on NPR with a county music singer-songwriter, Kacey Musgraves.  Musgraves is a young, but wise, artist.  Her major-label debut was released earlier this month.  And it’s full of musings on everyday life in the lower middle-class of rural-suburbia.  The name of the disc?  “Same Trailer, Different Park 

Before hearing the music, I thought that I’d never miss my old trailer.  A sincere thank-you, Kacey, for proving me wrong.

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