1995 - the Topping Trailer Trash years. Actually just two months but it felt like years. After spending eleven years in Minden, Nevada, enduring the heat and the cold and the wind and the dirt and the....cranky Californians who brought their cranky asses with them to screw up life in a whole NEW place....we packed up our lives and returned to the coast. It was fourteen years ago today.
The move started in August with the travel trailer and the rental of a space at the KOA . We came back the next weekend, towing my old Volvo on a trailer surrounded with boxes of thing we thought we might need but had to be left in a mini-storage. Mark leveled the trailer, hooked up the propane and poop pipe and returned to Nevada to pack up the house and close up his business. Monica and Hope were to start school on Monday and the next two months would be the stuff memories (and nightmares) are made of.
The alarm would sound, I'd grab the "shower bag" containing soap, shampoo and conditioner, along with a towel and flashlight and head out into the dark morning. Making my way up the tree-lined road (there were still trees at the KOA at that point), flashlight darting left and right to illuminate skunks and raccoons scavenging through park trash cans, I was generally the first inside the cold shower house. I'd turn on the lights and get the heater running and wait for the warm water to run through the pipes. Wash, dry... brrrrr, I'd scuff back to the trailer and wake Monica and Hope. They would, in turn, take the bag and grab their towels and venture in my footsteps back to the showers where, hopefully no one had left the door open and it was a bit warmer.
While they showered, I would fold up Monica's bed which doubled as the dining room. I'd wake Glo, who was just three at the time, and get her moving so as not to be in the way when her sisters returned. The tiny trailer bathroom held the mirror so timing was everything to get everyone dressed for school. An ill-timed opening of the refrigerator would block an exit from the bathroom....bickering and impatience and we're off to school. Hope had come from a year-round school so already had a month of second grade under her belt when I dropped her at Marshall that first day but Monica was starting Eureka High as a sophomore - that's a tale for her to tell. We had a few extra minutes that first day and drove by the house we were buying - 'our house'. We would do that regularly, cruising slowly past, nervous until that "SOLD" sign was hung over the realtor's picket.
Some days, Glo and I would head back to the park where I would keep track of her by the squeaky tricycle she peddled around the park. We would pick berries and bake cobblers and cookies in our tiny little trailer oven. A couple days a week, we would kill time waiting for stores to open, sometimes at the Del Norte pier watching jellyfish and otters wind their ways up the channel. Then we'd go about discovering Food Mart and the Fresh Guys, finding Winco and doing a wee bit of shopping which was all we had room for in our trailer house. Late afternoon, we'd hop in the car to collect the girls from school. Sometimes we'd eat and relax in the park hot tub.... nothing like tubbing with strangers for childhood memories.
The initial plan was for Mark to drive over on the weekends and bring loads of our stuff with each trip but it took only a couple of those long drives before the novelty of THAT wore off. It was decided he could get more done if he just stayed there and packed. He rounded up a friend to help ("do you know how many f#*king serving dishes you have?!") while I was a single-mom in the trailer park for the entire month of September.
Mark was scheduled to start work at Harper's at the start of October so he came that weekend, towing a box trailer containing our world which Harvey allowed him to park out back of the dealership. He also brought our dog and one old cat. For the next month, the body count in that 18-1/2 foot trailer was two adults, three kids, a cranky old cat and a hundred-pound dog. We added dad to the morning shower ritual as well as a walk for Grizz and set about trying to enjoy autumn under the trees. We bought a jack o'lantern and a box of apples without consideration of our storage situation so put them on the table outside. The racoons found them all to be quite delicious, taking a bite of virtually every apple, littering our site with the remains. Arrrgh!
The end of the month held light at the end of that long, trailer-lined tunnel. We would occasionally make treks to the mini-storage to retrieve warmer clothes and, as Halloween loomed, we dug out the costumes. As the girls tried to decide on their costumes for the year, Hope's decision was made for her when she contracted chicken pox.... She was no longer contagious when she returned to school with a black pointy hat and realistic witchy complexion, complete with bumps.
Finally, the papers were signed and on the first Friday in November, Glo and I dropped the girls at school, picked up a bucket of chicken and had lunch on the floor of our new, old living room. Over the weekend, we emptied the box trailer of our dusty Nevada boxes into our musty old home.
For fourteen years, we've been here in this rickely old beast and I still love it. I always wanted a house with "character" and, as Mark tells me, "well, you got it!". I spent a little time in county records tracking the history and age of our new abode. A two-story house built by Anthony Gray early in the last century (records are sketchy due to a fire of county records) who ran a rug-cleaning business out of the garage and added a second half to the house sometime before 1920, as a home for his son and wife. Around 1953, the two units were joined, creating odd rooms and two sets of stairs leading to the same floor. We have found eleven layers of paint and wallpaper when we did the guest room and 12" planks of redwood that ran the full width of the upstairs when we replaced flooring. The odd angles and square nails are still fascinating. We finally gave up on the project list, choosing to do projects as they come, and some even get finished. But what I really want to do is move this wall........