My boys were building with Legos a few weeks ago, and, as usual, they called me into my older son’s bedroom so that I could ooh and ahh over their creations, which I love to do.
My 4-year-old’s masterpiece was a square built using several different Legos, the whole thing attached to a pair of wheels. “This is a house, Mommy,” he explained as he held it one inch from my nose so that I could get a really good look. I had to cross my eyes to see it. “When I grow up, I want a house on wheels!”
I patted him on the head. “It’s called a trailer, son, and I’m glad that your father and I have taught you to keep your aspirations high.”
I had a similar conversation with his older brother a few weeks prior.
“MOM,” he had called from down the hall, addressing me in that intense way that he does because EVERYTHING IS IMPORTANT.
“Yeah, buddy?” I’d asked, stepping into his bedroom.
“Mom,” he’d said again, “we need a spot for my Legos where Bubba can’t get them. He’s been ruining the stuff that I build.” He used upturned palms to indicate his Lego table, the site of the wreckage. And he was right; there were several elaborate creations torn halfway down, the work of his younger brother and his sweet, fat preschool hands.
I had nodded sympathetically. “You’re right, buddy. We do need a spot for your finished Lego projects that you want to hold onto for a while before breaking them down.” Here, I looked around his room. “You’re probably going to have get rid of some of the stuff on your dresser to make room, though, because the problem is, kiddo, you’re kind of a hoarder.”
My son’s eyes lit up like he’d seen a celebrity. “A hoarder?” he had repeated in an awed whisper filled with pride. “Like all of those people who lived in long houses full of cool stuff on that show you used to watch?”
“Trailers,” I’d supplied, as he’d forgotten the word since our last conversation about them (see below). “And yes. You’re just like those people.”
I realized my error then. I had mistakenly thought that he hadn’t been paying attention during my nights watching Hoarders marathons on A&E when he was younger. It was a guilty habit, kind of like how I used to watch Intervention back in my mid-20’s and think, “Yeah, I might be drinking beer alone as I watch this, but at least I’m not trading a blow job behind the Dumpster for Quaaludes (anymore). I can have a few drinks if I want.”
But then mid-20’s somehow very quickly turned to early 30’s, and there wasn’t a lot of time—even on a Friday night—to leisurely knock back a few beers because I was too busy raising my kids. And anyway, hangovers are so much worse when you’re old. So my guilty pleasure shifted from Intervention to Hoarders—but the sentiment kind of remained the same.
I was feeling guilty one night because I like to have everything cleaned up before I go to bed. It was my turn to do the dishes because my husband had cooked, but I hadn’t gotten around to them yet. I gave my husband a sidelong glance from the couch, where we had settled to watch our DVR’d episode of Hoarders. “You know, I might’ve left the dirty spaghetti dishes from dinner in the sink tonight, but at least I don’t have a pile of decaying cat skeletons in a hole in the wall next to the bath tub,” I pointed out.
“There is that, at least,” my husband murmured, never taking his eyes off of the TV. “There is that.”
I’m lucky I married someone who can always see the silver lining.
So, rather than try to change my children’s perceptions about the good things in life, I’ve chosen to embrace them. And it’s about time, I’d say, because they’ve always been enthralled by the simple life.
When my older son was only 3, we drove past a trailer park. This was just after a conversation we’d had upon seeing an illustration of a trailer in his Highlights High Five magazine. “MOM!” he squealed happily from his 5-point harness in the backseat. “Look! Trailers! A whole bunch of them!”
“Yes,” I said, catching his eye in the rearview mirror. “It’s called a trailer park.”
He smiled at me, then turned his gaze out the window so as not to miss a single trailer. “I want to live in a trailer park someday,” he said quietly, almost in reverence.
“I’m working on it, kiddo,” I said back to him, and, just to make good on my word, turned into the nearest convenience store to buy a six-pack of Natural Light, some ciggies, and a $10 scratch-off.
Now, lest I sound like a hifalutin asshole, allow me to remind you that I once dated a really hot guy who lived in a trailer. The managers of the place tried to church up the trailer park by assigning everyone suite numbers for their lots. His was Suite 28, which we always spelled “Sweet 28.”
And then he unceremoniously broke up with me, effectively smashing my little dude-in-a-trailer-loving heart into a million pieces just as I was about to break the lease on my own condo and move into Sweet 28 with him. Okay, I wasn’t actually going to do that, but probably only because he hadn’t asked.
And if I’m being completely honest, I didn’t live in a condo, anyway; I lived in a dilapidated old 2-bedroom apartment at the end of a cul-de-sac, which was also just a really nice way of saying “dead end.”
You want to say “Sweet 28”? Okay, then I want to say “Condo at the end of a beautiful cul-de-sac.”
It was this particular apartment to which, when I had blind dates who were picking me up, I would give directions like this: “Okay, you’ll take a left onto Canvas Street, and you’ll see these really nice condos—like, really gorgeous places—on your right. Keep going. Yeah, pass those right up. My apartment is at the end of the street on the left. It’s the one that looks like it should be burned…or maybe like it already has been. Most people don’t like to sit on the carpet.”
So see? A trailer would’ve been a step up.