I lived in a trailer court from birth until I moved away to go to graduate school at the age of 23. Our trailer, built in the 1950's, was white and blue on the outside, and there was a white aluminum sunshade running along the length of the concrete front porch. Stray cats would seek shelter under our trailer, often giving birth there. During those times the sound of meowing litters of kittens drifted up through the pressed wood floors. No matter how many times my parents closed the gap in the aluminum skirt that encircled our trailer and hid the tires, stray animals would still find a way in.
Inside the trailer, the carpeting was Avacado Green shag, and the drapes were Harvest Gold with rubber backing. Wood paneling lined every wall except the kitchen, which was decorated with the orange and gold wallpaper my mom put up when I was 9. The kitchen table, which sat the three of us, took up most of the space, leaving just enough for me to play jacks against the fridge while my mom cooked our dinner.
We had a deep freezer in the living room, and on top of it was a lazy susan filled with loose change, bolts, safety pins and election pins. My toy box stood in the far corner of the living room, and my bookcase was next to the t.v. The distance between the t.v. and the couch was such that I was able to plug in the earphones my parents made me use to watch Saturday morning cartoons, and wear them while laying on the couch.
We had two bedrooms, mine was the first room on the right as you went down the hall. Next was the bathroom, and my parent's bedroom was at the end of the hallway. Our bathroom was robin's egg blue. The bathtub, toilet and sink. The shower had never worked, and so the first shower I ever took was at Viki Salvetti's house when I was a junior in high school.
When I was in grade school, I was aware that my friends who lived in houses had things I could only dream about. I fantasized about having stairs to run up and down on, a basement to hide in during "hide and seek", a front porch to play on during the summer, a creepy attic to explore on rainy Sunday afternoons and front steps that were a part of the house, unlike our shaky black metal ones that could be pulled away from the trailer if need be. My friends had showers that worked, big bedrooms with room for a friend to sleep over, dining rooms, back yards, driveways, garages, back doors, washers and dryers, and windows that could be pushed up on warm Spring days (instead of being cranked open). I dreamed, fantasized and prayed that we would someday move to a house. A house with a laundry room so we didn't have to go to the laundromat every week, where the neighbors didn't beat their children, fight with their best friends and screw each other's wives.
When I got into high school, I fully realized that people who lived in trailer courts were considered "poor", "white trash" and "tacky". I had always known that my circumstances weren't as nice as most of my friends, but I began to feel ashamed of where I lived. When I started dating at 14, I told Mike that my mom and I would pick him up. I didn't want him to see where I lived. I couldn't understand why we didn't live in a house. Both of my parents worked, and they had nice cars. There was always plenty of food and I never went without anything I needed. I never felt like I fit in at the trailer court, and I was seen as a snob by a lot of the other kids. I honestly thought they were trashy and I only hung around with them for something to do.
I used to watch for signs that we might move out someday. My ears would perk up when I heard my dad mention a house he'd seen for sale, or my mom would mention that the furnace wasn't going to last for much longer. On Sunday mornings, before my parents woke up, I would lay in bed with my eyes closed and imagine that I had a canopy bed, my own phone, a t.v. and a dresser.
But the little things that I observed told me we weren't moving any time soon. My mom planted an oak tree in the front yard. She ordered a roll of 500 return address labels that read 202 Avenue D, East Peoria Il. Lastly, when I was 9, a man came to our door and offered to buy the tires off of our trailer for $50, and my mom said yes. That's when I realized that we were never going to leave, that I was going to live in that trailer court until I moved out.
But my heart was in a house. A two-story house with a dining room, three bedrooms and one and a half baths. My heart was in a bedroom that had girly furniture that was painted white, a bed with a soaring canopy and a matching dressing table and mirror. Maybe it would have a finished basement and I could invite friends over to listen to music, or watch MTV. I could have sleepovers for my birthday and when giving directions I could say, "It's the third house on the left, instead of saying, "It's the second trailer on the left, white with blue stripes."