Back to being trailer trash


My trailer looked very small and frail beside my son’s big pole barn where it had spent the winter. Before I left for New York City last October, I had cleaned its rubber roof and waxed its fiberglass skin; I’d scrubbed its innards, emptied its tanks, blown out its pipes, and filled them with antifreeze. (Actually, my brother did the winterizing. What do I know about air compressors?)

I’d covered it with a mammoth tarp that I didn’t tie down properly, so it flapped around all winter requiring regular readjustment by my son. (Thanks, Joe.)

Still, I was nervous about taking up residence again.

First, a lot of stuff can go wrong in the course of a winter. Had it sprung a leak? Did mice move in like the Clampetts with all their untidy habits? Would its delicate little systems—furnace, water pump, battery, refrigerator, water heater—still work?

But most of all, would I still like living in a 14-ft (4.25 meter) trailer?

After a winter with a regular kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, and a bed that wasn’t a foam-covered pad on a slab of particle board, would I want to return to the kind of transient life that causes dead silence and pained looks when I tell people where I’m from (nowhere) and what I’m doing (living in a trailer). I don’t know if people think I’m unstable or if they just can’t relate to this sort of nonsense.

So, with the tiniest quiver of trepidation I opened the door and stepped inside the little space that had sheltered me over so many miles and in so many places and which was once so cozily familiar to me.

It smelled good.

It looked clean.

No roof leaks. The little red light on the battery indicated that it was still connected to the trickle charger that my brother had given me. (What do I know about trickle chargers?) A mouse had indeed moved into a storage compartment (and that smelled to high heaven.), but had thoughtfully moved out leaving no permanent damage.

I fired up the furnace—it caught on the first try. Ditto for the water heater. (I don’t use either of these very much, but I like knowing that they work.) The battery was charged. Refrigerator worked. The water pump merrily gushed the foaming pink antifreeze from its pipes. I merrily flushed out the fresh water tank and filled that baby with clean water.

I am road-worthy and ready to go.

You can’t imagine how good that feels.

*     *     *

For the next couple of weeks, I hung out in my son’s backyard in rural Michigan. After relatively sunny New York, I’d forgotten how damp the state is. Salt congeals in the shaker, and envelopes seal themselves. In the morning, fog rises from the barley field where sandhill cranes are hatching babies. A family of vultures hangs out down the road soaring overhead on carrion forays. The wild turkeys are working on this year’s family. One of my daughter-in-law’s chickens disappeared and turned up in the barn rafters, sitting on two eggs. Distress to excitement in the blink of an eye.

And almost every day I watched small-town life go by at Cravingz, the little cafe in the village, where coffee and a pastry cost less than $5. (Eat your heart out, New York City.)

Then I picked up my little granddaughter after school.

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6 Responses to Back to being trailer trash

  1. Johnnomads 23 August, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    After living in various vans for 20 years, I bought an old 16′ travel trailer (3rd owner), which I loved. Trailers give you the perception of being a RV’er, which a great many ppl lust after, and dream of doing. I was sorry to give it up when it just wasn’t roadworthy any longer, but now I’m back in a newer Chevy van, living the nomadic life. Perhaps I’ll get another little trailer someday!

  2. Michelle De Rooy 30 September, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    What a delightful entry on your blog. I do hope you will continue to write. You never know but maybe one day we might meet on the road esp if you come up to Canada in 12 months time, which I am sort of hoping to persuade my hubby to do whist we visit our daughter who has just moved to Vancouver from the sunny beach life style of our part of Australia

  3. Sandy Christensen 26 May, 2012 at 11:02 am #

    Hi Kate, Reading your exuberant style of making everyday happenstance interesting and even suspenceful! Northward HO! Oh by the way, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you!! Love Sandy C su amiga de Scottville

    • Jean 28 May, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

      Mi amiga de Scottville,
      I’m beginning to find that everyday happenstance IS pretty exciting. And northward ho, indeed. Yahoo!

      Thanks for following and for the good wishes.

  4. Rose Bradley 24 May, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    Sounds like you might be close by somewhere, if you have not taken off already. I received your beautiful comforting letter. Thank you so much for thinking of us and for your prayers. Don’t stop. Jerry and I are leaving on the 29th to drive to California to spend a little time with Mary, and take a break from our sadness, and have a little joy for awhile. Any travel tips would be appreciated. I meant to send you a painted card to thank you. Later.
    Love you,

    • Kate 28 May, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

      Passed through your neck of the woods, but I don’t have your phone number! Glad you’re taking a break from all things familiar. Sometimes new surroundings and a different pace can be healing. (And so can visiting children. I’m sure Mary will be thrilled to have you.)

      What part of California are you heading for?