Oscar winner Hillary Swank grew up in a trailer. Country star Gretchen Wilson did too.
Big deal ladies.
At any given time, roughly 30 percent of my extended family is living in a trailer in some godforsaken corner of America. As a cousin or an aunt leaves one, inevitably there’s another crawling in.
Our little part for balance in the universe, I guess.
I spent the first 10 years of my life in one. From 1972 to 1982 me, my brother, sister, and mother kept it real in the Valley View Trailer Court in downstate Illinois. My grandma and youngest aunt lived in the neighboring trailer.
Over that decade, our two trailers were the anchor for what was to become a sort of Kennedy compound without the money, servants, and spirited political debates. We remained as my six aunts and uncles and their families would move in and out of other trailers as they were down on their luck. That was pretty often.
Now trailer life obviously isn’t glamorous as one would suspect. But as kids you really didn’t know much better. There were always cousins to play with; to say we had the run of the place would be an understatement. There were hills to climb, little patches of woods where the boy cousins could shoot each other point-blank with BB guns, and taverns that would sell cigarettes to a six-year-old. My grandma had like 40 stray cats that she fed, which became a stable of sorts for my ill-behaved cousins to torment. (There was never any actual torture; one would grab the front paws, the other would grab the hind legs and they would swing them higher and higher and then let ‘em go.)
It was like a white trash Disneyland.
Crazy uncles would regale us with tales of their childhood. Never did we hear about walking uphill both ways to school in the snow. They were much too creative for that.
“We were sooo poor,” said one uncle.
How poor were you Uncle John?
“We were sooo poor that we didn’t have blankets. We had to cover up with the cockroaches.”
The other uncle who took an unexpected leave from the Marines in the late 70s--that I’m pretty sure Uncle Sam didn’t O.K.--would take us on hikes and hunting trips. He would have six or seven of us with him and have us walk ahead, and before we’d know it he’d be out of sight. A couple of the wee ones would start crying thinking we were all alone and lost, but us bigger kids knew he was just a freak and would show up soon enough laughing like he’d heard the greatest joke on Earth. When you think about it, being left in a clearing while an armed, AWOL marine is lurking in the woods uncle or not, probably isn’t the best place for kids to be.
Anyway, I’ve barely scratched the surface on this one. Growing up without a lot of stuff sucked, sure.
But man did we laugh our asses off.