Part Two: When Atlas Shrugged

We settled into our new cramped life that fall, our 5th Wheel Trailer surrounded by old sycamore, locust, and oak trees. At night, we would wedge open the vent, a vent masquerading as a window, to listen to the rustle of the leaves, the barking of the coyotes, and unfortunately, the rooting and snorting of wild boars.

A romantic, I loved our simple life, a return to Nature in the spirit of Thoreau, Whitman, and Emerson.

I invited my students to our property to read and analyze portions of Walden. We collected leaves while railing against the material excess of mankind. (I must admit here that some irony was playing out as soil engineers and trucks carrying steel drove in and out, past my semi-circle of philosophers.)

Winter arrived. Dad penned his annual holiday letter, a Year in Review, in which he commented on life and family. That year,1993, his tone changed. In the paragraph about his oldest child, he wrote:

Ron and Cheri have lost their minds, selling their home on San Martin Place and relocating to a 5th Wheel Trailer on their property. My Grandson Ben lives with spiders for roommates in The Annex, an old 1920’s cabin. After the death of her Springer Spaniel Maggie, Cheri did an about turn and bought a Rottweiler pup, Elsa, to join her and Ron in a their small space. God love Ron.

OK. Adding a growing 40 lb puppy to 100 square feet of living space was not the most mature decision, but Ron dealt with it (as he always does).

The first sign of trailer tension rattled on a dark Monday morning, when Ron could not physically turn around to pick up a dropped soap bar in the shower. His brick body, wedged into the molded plastic coffin of a shower stall, stuck to the four walls like a rectangular widget, designed for moisture retention.

Adding to his stress was the strain of returning home in a three-piece suit to his wife, whose intellect and attention, once stimulated by Plato, Rand, Goethe, and Rousseau, had wandered off, and who was now glued to a tiny TV watching Tim Allen’s Tool Time and Chuck Woolery’s The Love Connection.

Once a beacon of Media Restriction, forbidding the kids to watch a television show with no redeeming value, such as Rosanne, he had nowhere to escape, unless taking that one step up to the bedroom, where a bed was the room, counts.

Our Spartan Life contrasted with the building of our house. Contractors, sub-contractors, and cement and lumber trucks rumbled by the trailer with their loads of putty, mortar, and brick. Emerging from our imagination, the House was becoming a reality, yet I became more comfortable in my little trailer, where my son and husband had to talk to each other every night around that flat, three-sided table, propped up by an aluminum leg. Conversation was rich.

My laissez- faire response to convention emerged, seasoned by this simple existence.

By late spring, despite the city planners, the architect, the contractors, and us, the work concluded. The House was ready to be occupied.

For some reason, I wasn’t ready to occupy it.

Cheri, this House is why you and I work so hard, so long, so intensely. Aren’t you ready for more room, for Pete’s sake??

Ron moved in on a Friday. I stayed in the 5th Wheel Trailer for one more night, alone.

On Sunday morning, I carried the Earth on my shoulders, down to the New House.

Ron was elated. I see you are ready, Atlas.

I Shrugged.

Photo by Cheri Block Sabraw 2006 Northern California ” One Try”

About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
This entry was posted in Life. Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Part Two: When Atlas Shrugged

  1. Douglas says:

    Beautifully written, as usual. I spent my 17th and 18th years in a “mobile home”, a year in Orlando and a year in Hallandale, Florida. My room was a bed with a wall closet and drawer set I could only open while on the bed. Strangely, I did enjoy those two years and was comfortable. Sometimes we are shaped by our environment rather than the other way around.

  2. Wendy says:

    I love this. You are a good story spinner!

  3. Cheri Block Sabraw says:

    Hi Douglas,
    Perfect last sentence. Thanks for the input.

  4. Cheri Block Sabraw says:

    Thank you!

  5. Sailing Past Maturity Straight into Senility says:

    I spent one of the happiest years of my life sleeping on an old army cot in a trailer right next to a training stable – no television, however.

    Love your blog – keep it coming.

  6. Cheri Block Sabraw says:


    Your combination of simplicity and horses is a beauty. Reminds me of some of the description in Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley.

  7. twelvekindsofcrazy says:

    You are an amazing story teller. I am hooked.

  8. Shawn Michel de Montaigne says:

    Interesting allusion to Ayn Rand here. I haven’t read enough of your blog yet to see what your feelings on her are.

    Nevertheless, you are a terrific writer, and this is a great blog. I look forward to reading more soon.

    –And the best to you and your new digs!

  9. Cheri Block Sabraw says:

    The last two essays are the first in which I include allusions to The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In today’s economy, it seems appropriate to consider Rand’s beliefs. Thanks for noticing that some of her philosophy is embedded in the stories.

  10. Sandra says:

    Both of my children have insisted that I need to read Atlas Shrugged, because of its application to what is going on these days. I take your reference to it here as just another reminder that I really DO need to read it.

    This was a great story. I love your storytelling.

  11. lakeviewer says:


    You have a way of transporting us and making us see many connections.
    Thanks for the lesson.
    Enjoy the holidays

  12. The Sci Fi Fantic says:

    As one of the few places I do like to revisit, Merry Christmas Cheri and Happy New Year to you.
    The Sci Fi Fanatic.

  13. Dina says:

    Merry Christmas! As usual, thanks for the great story. I’ve been feeling the need to simplify life lately, especially with the uncertain economy we are facing. Your story reminded me of why I love camping – feeling a part of nature and the simplicity required to live freely in a small space.

  14. Chourou says:

    Hi,Cheri. You wrote ” I love our simple life” and “Conversation was rich.” Looks like you cherish things like that, and that’s the point I like about this article. I am looking forward to the Part Three.

  15. Christopher says:

    I’m putting “Atlas Shrugged” on my “To Read” list!!

    • Cheri says:

      You will have to like Ayn Rand. She isn’t for everyone. Now that you mention it, I should go back and reread it too!.What are you reading these days?

      • Christopher says:

        “……What are you reading these days?……..”

        “The Literary Churchill” by Jonathan Rose. It’s a look at how Winston Churchill was influenced by the books he read, and by the literary luminaries he was friends with, and by the theatre (he was an avid play-goer).

        You doubtless know that Churchill was an omnivorous reader (as well as prolific writer), and that, being for all intents and purposes an autodidact, his reading was wider than that of the usual university graduate of his time. His imagination thus stimulated, he was unusually receptive to new and controversial ideas.

        What other famous prime minister or president loved reading as much as Churchill? I think of Theodore Roosevelt, who allegedly read at least one book a day, even when President, and who also wrote forty books – arguably more than Churchill wrote.

        What other prime ministers or presidents of recent times liked to read? I don’t know of any, except for John F Kennedy, and…….wait for it……..Obama. This may account for the quality of Kennedy’s very sharp wit – a function of a wide vocabulary – and for Obama’s soaring oratory.

        Anyway, I’m enthralled by “The Literary Churchill”, and you just might be too, once you’re finished marking your students papers!!

  16. Cheri says:

    Thank you for this recommendation. I am almost through with my task. Very good papers all the way around.

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