Bad Habits » Moodswing


A concrete wad of wonder


I'm dying to show my girl the key chain for our new (or newly purchased old) trailer. It has a tiny Formica beer mug attached to it, which I find fairly appropriate. Until then it did not even occur to me that trailer doors have locks on them. My father's trailer door was never locked, which probably explains the ease with which it was towed away when the repo people finally found it.

My dad discovered the trailer missing after his daily beer-belting marathon at the local tavern, and in all he was about half as pissed as I thought he'd be. In fact, he was more mad the night I broke the seemingly less valuable Stan Laurel half of the Laurel and Hardy plaster statue set he gave my mother on her 40th birthday the year before. That night my mother had to fling herself in front of me because my father had his kicking foot all drawn back and poised to land on my ass. Looking back, I'm a little amused by my mother's protection, because it's been my experience that she could have won a few trophies in the National Ass-Kicking Contest herself, believe me.

But on the night of the missing trailer, all my dad did was call me and my sisters outside, show us the empty carport, yell at us about how the trailer was taken "right out from under us," and ask us why the hell we didn't just lay down in front of the tires to block the evil repo men. But I think he went easy on us because he could tell from our faces we were more bereft at the missing trailer than he could ever be.

For one thing, it meant no more camping, and camping to us meant something entirely different than it does to most people. To us, camping entailed parking ourselves at a vast concrete lot where trees and wildlife were about 50th on our list of priorities, way under the really important stuff, like amenities and "hookups." In fact, it was possible, if you worked it right, to not lay eyes on any actual nature for the entire trip. You could just spend the day sitting next to your trailer in the concrete RV lot, swimming in the concrete RV-lot pool, then playing billiards in the concrete RV-lot clubhouse.

It was paradise. On wheels. Once, the RV-lot amenities included a diner where you could make your own pancakes on grills in the middle of the tables. At the very least, amenities meant a snack bar during high season, plus a bay of vending machines for the off months. Whenever my mother would show us brochures for consideration for future trips, we would always ask, "Are there hookups?" because to us the term "hookups" had come to refer to everything, not just the plumbing and electricity, but the entire concrete wad of wonder that RV camping had become. "There's a waterslide!" she'd exclaim, and we'd all squeal with excitement, my father included.

It was my father who was in charge of all the hookups. There was a panel along the side of the trailer with big outlets behind it that he attached things to, which somehow magically made us able to cook sausage links and flush toilets (but not in relation to one another). This caused my mother to get googy on occasion and actually show him affection, because in our real home, where my parents customarily fought like rival tigers, my father was not nearly as proficient as he was in the miniature-trailer version of our home.

In the miniature-trailer version, everything was compartmentalized, cleaner, newer and more manageable in its compact state. In the miniature-trailer version, my dad was in charge and my mother was impressed and my sisters and I bought the whole blissful picture for as long as it lasted. Look at us, a happy family, we beamed. My parents probably would not have believed it was possible until they saw it in our faces.

I purchased the vintage Shasta trailer without really thinking about particulars, such as towing the damn thing home. I thought maybe I could have it hauled here and sit it in my yard as a lovely restored relic or something. But my 6-year-old daughter bought the whole blissful picture from the moment we started researching travel trailers on the Web. To her, the purpose of the trailer is not simply to plunk it somewhere in order to make a fun statement. To her, the trailer is paradise on wheels. "Where are we taking it?" she asks excitedly. "Disney World?"

So I started thinking maybe I can tow the damn thing myself. I have never towed so much as a red kiddie wagon before, but I got a hitch put on my car -- amazingly, because who thought they made hitches to fit PT Cruisers? -- and damn if that little Shasta trailer didn't tow like a (kinda wind-resistant) dream all they way back from Indiana. I would not have believed it if not for my girl, but that's one of the surprise perks you'll discover about parenthood, because when you have kids you get to believe everything all over again. I can't wait to see her face when I show her the trailer. "That right there," I'll say, pointing to the panel on the side, "is where you put the hookups.".

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