I grew up in a doublewide. A modular home. A mobile home. A trailer. Two pieces assembled together like a travel toothbrush. When we first moved in, the grass was as tall as my ice cube shaped knees. The rest of the foundation was orange clay. The burnt sienna stained the soles of my feet while the tall fescue quietly enveloped me from view. The prefabricated smell of fresh plastic ballooned my lungs. After a few years we bricked in our open floor to the ground. Making permanent what was once questionable. Brick by brick made the structure look more like the houses that were in town. Brick by brick we locked in the shame of being “trailer trash” or simply of being poor.
My best friend, Martha Cromley, lived in town in a two story brick home. She called me Freckles and I called her Crums. Her room was twice the size of mine and even had its own bathroom. They had two living rooms, a pool table, and a grand piano. Every morning there was breakfast waiting on Crums and her siblings in the oven. Compared to my waking routine of feeding myself a Yoo-hoo and Nutty Bar while watching I Love Lucy until my mother rushed us out the door, her home was 90’s sitcom. So much of me should have been jealous but I couldn’t be. Crums fought with her mother constantly. They had no acreage surrounding them like I did. They were walking distance to Main Street yet so far removed from the imaginative luster of the woods.
The notion to be ashamed of my home didn’t come until around eighth grade. Our band class was required to have p.e. once a month on a Friday. This meant playing two rounds of kickball then looking for arrowheads in the dirt, our band teacher, Mr. Shull’s, hobby forced on us. If we didn’t find any then we’d pick up whatever piece of clay we could find and mold into a point with a stick.
Once, while everyone else played kickball, Crums and I took a break sitting on the picnic table nearby. Miller, an obnoxious slightly popular kid-if our town even had popular kids-strolled over. His father had just died but it hadn’t seemed to soften his heart. He went on to say that we should take a field trip over to my house and pull the trailer away. Because if we all worked together it would probably move.
It wasn’t just an attack on the outside appearance. It never is. Miller had found a vulnerable place, a slight tear in the blueprint of who I was that he could easily rip and run away with. A token to build up in him whatever felt low, lonely, afraid. Because hurting people wil usually try their best to hurt people. Perhaps because of his own loss, vulnerability was there. One that he,an adolescent boy, could never reveal.
I don’t remember crying. I don’t remember walking away. But I do remember feeling different after that moment. Different because now I knew people were looking at me and they were judging. Life suddenly became more than just kicking a ball and running bases. More than molding broken pieces of ground into new creations. Like the arrowheads we made, I starting learning how to create something new from the broken pieces.