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