Zen in a Double Wide Trailer

Sunday, July 23, 2006

This is a re-print from an earlier Post. I have an "event" today...so Tempers are running high here. Enjoy....I may be drinking by this evening.


Today I took my daughter to a birthday party - the first of her public school experience.

I had called several days ago to chat with the mom and flesh out what may be appropriate gifts, as well as what constitutes acceptable parental birthday decorum. My daughter is in class with the little boy - and he has a twin sister, so I needed to get 2 gifts.

Since I do not know these children - or any, that my daughter now attends school with, I find it hard to judge what the likes and dislikes of the group may be. In her former school, I KNEW the parents, I KNEW the children, I KNEW the birthday protocol. This is a brave new world.

School stuff is a touchy subject for me. I have over extended myself to make sure that Emily has the nicest clothes, the best toys - a sense of plenty that I never had as a child. I never had the right clothes, or things and knew it every day of my school life. My husband has called me a snob during some of the less proud moments when I cried because I didn't want to buy a coat at Walmart, or when he tried to get boots that weren't LL Bean. I know, I know, I know. I am not overly proud of this trait in myself. It has cost me more money that I can even bear to describe. It has caused fights between my husband and myself. And....yet...I...Can't...stop......

There is a rather infamous moment when a girlfriend was in the Hannah Andersson store and was buying Emily a gift, but didn't know her size. They called into the Main Store - who told her over the phone what sizes Emily was now wearing. We are greeted by name at the Gymboree store. Shameful.

So, I went and bought these children Playmobil. Playmobil has been a godsend for Emily. She loves her Playmobil to distraction - almost as much as Bitty Baby and American Girl. The Pirate Playmobil set for the boy and the Unicorn Fairy Playmobil set for the girl. Emily practically swallowed her tongue when she saw these in the bag. She has neither of these sets. So we wrapped them in fancy ribbon and paper (presentation is half the battle!) and off we went at the appointed time to the place.

When I initially called the mother, I made some assumptions from the phone call.

A. The woman's name is Candy.

B. I was told to look for the doublewide trailer, behind the fire dept.

C. The kids have never seen Playmobil and have no idea what it is. Nor does the mother.

I'll give you a moment to put this picture together in your mind.

Have you fixed it in your mind? Yeah, I did too.

So, off we go to find the doublewide trailer at 11 a.m. in the pouring rain. When I find it, it is all that I expect, and so…much…more.

There is a bathtub Mary in the front yard!
There are several less than functional vehicles parked to the side!
There is some sort of shed, which looks to be a serious fire/health hazard!
Half the Home is covered in Tyvek wrapping, the other half is painted!
There is an entrance, which is apparently NOT the entrance, but a crafty ruse to trick visitors.

We walk into the house in. I quickly take in the interior - which looks exactly like I assumed it would. There are different shag carpets from the early 70's – pieced together to make one carpet. There is a great deal of sheet rock that is being used as wall -- sans paper or paint. There is the floating praying hands portrait. There are Nascar pictures. The only thing I didn't get to look for was the "Screaming eagles of freedom" collectible plates, however I do believe that they were in the house.
Now, don't get me wrong. I was born in West Virginia. These are my people. My 30+ first cousins were lucky to graduate from High school, and most had their first babies at the median age of 16. I am, if truth be told, one genetic leap away from hillbilly. And not even a giant step. My hillbilly senses were a-tingling.

My hesitation wafted off of me like bad cologne. My smile was wide and frozen. Leave my child here?
I sized Emily up, and she said, "I think you should go Mama."
"Are you sure?” I reply - half wanting to stay and imprint this scene on my mind the way an anthropologist would, half wanting to get the hell out of there as fast as I could!
“Go, Mama. I’ll see you after the party.” Emily hugs me, and turns me around towards the door. I have been dismissed.

I leave. I get to my car. I begin to turn around in the v.e.r.y narrow driveway. I am almost all the way around when my front tire slips off the pavement and hits the mud that is the front yard.

My car slips farther down onto the mud. Sliding, Sliding, Sliding
All 4 wheels are now on the mud.
You have got to be shitting me.

A sheer wave of unadulterated panic slides over me. I try to reverse and the sound that my tires make is not a good one. Squelchy, wet and muffled. I go forward, and inch further out on the mud to get a more solid spot. Then reverse again. Minutes pass. I am not going anywhere. I try to call my husband - because he will surely get me out of this mess with his 1987 Jaguar? It would be like the blind leading the blind. I am in full-blown panic mode now. Seriously. If I could flee and leave my car there, never to be seen again, I think I would have done so. If you have ever had a real panic attack, you know of what I speak. All systems are screaming – RUN RUN RUN RUN!!!!

I go forward and backward. I call my husband. I get no fucking signal. I resist the urge to fling my phone and watch it sink into the mud. If I get out, I'll have to do it in bare feet, since my Birkenstocks will be no good in this mess. MOTHER FUCKER!!!! I try to call again and get a signal, but no answer. Just the voice mail. I practically scream, "Where are you!! I am stuck in this fucking front mud yard since these people have torn up their yard and I can't get out and where are you!!!" and hang up.

Terrance calls right back. "Hey babe - what's up?" He sounds casual and relaxed.
“What’s up? WHATS UP?? I am stuck in some metaphor for my fucking life. In the mud filled front lawn of a god damn double wide trailer.” I am panting, on the verge of hysteria.

"I'll be there in just a few minutes"

I put the car in park and sit. Breathe, Dawn, Breathe.

A small hand knocks on my window. I jump. The birthday boy is standing outside in the rain. I roll my window down.

"You're stuck in the mud." he says.
"Yeah, I know." (Inner voice: Don’t scream at the kid, Dawn, don’t scream at the kid- keep calm)
"My dad can pull you out - he's got a four wheel drive"
"Ok, I called my husband too." I say this in a feeble voice.
"I got stuck right over there when I was driving my four wheeler - see the hole?" – he points.
"Oh yeah, Emily says you like her hair", I say
He smiles shyly, "It's fluffy", he says

And then the nicest man I have ever seen drives a 1983 GMC truck down, hooks a chain to the back end and pulls me out of the mud. This guy even looks like he could have been one of my cousins. Mud flies, engines groan, my car is slowly pulled from the pit that I have dug with my tires.

"I'm really sorry for tearing up your yard", I say to him.
"No problem - want to come in the house?" Birthday father says.
"No, my husband just pulled up - I'll go let him know I'm ok - Thanks again"

Like Buddha himself coming down from Nirvana to re-teach me the lesson of judging others, I drive home, chastised.

6 Baleful Regards:

Erin said...

What a great lesson!

Anonymous said...

I know of whence you speak. Having grown up lower-middle class, wearing clothes from the thrift store most of my childhood, I have such a hard time when I see people who live like I did. It's my own gut reaction that's troublesome. I still struggle sometimes but compassion comes much easier than it used to. Great post.

Anonymous said...

WE LOVE PLAYMOBIL in our house. Insanely expensive-but-very-long-lasting toys with many, many, many tiny pieces that are a BITCH to step on in the middle of the night. But does it keep them busy?? You bet! Even though the two oldest are almost out of high school and the "baby" is 12, we still have all the Playmobil sets we ever bought. Ditto for Lego and Brio trains. We don't ever plan on letting go of them. Won't the grandchildren (light years from now) be excited??

Bobita said...

Love, love, love this post!

cara said...

Hilarious....really enjoyed the post. You did a very good job at setting the scene.

Anonymous said...

My mother tried so hard to distance me from our Appalachian roots. She used caustic wit to make it something other, not us, not she and I. Maybe it was what helped me become the first in the family to go to college, and then get a graduate degree. But I feel disconnected and ashamed of the people I grew up with who were not lucky enough to make it out. Thank you for reminding me that they were largely kind and generous people struggling to make better lives for themselves and their families. A beautiful and compassionate post.

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