I grew up in a trailer, and because my father believed that “it’s harder to hit a moving target”, we moved.
Have you lived in a trailer? You are familiar, then, with the siding that goes around the bottom of it, yes?
The procedure, once the trailer’s been “dropped” is that you anchor it (thus making it harder for the inevitable tornado to suck you up and deposit you in Wisconsin) and then “skirt” it (thus making it harder for woodland creatures and/or trailer park cretins to burrow underneath and chew through wires/exposed pipes).
Some people don’t bother to skirt their trailers. This looks trashy, frankly, and bodes ill for its inhabitants, for reasons that shall become clear soon.
Some people skirt their trailers with wood. Affordable but prone to rot and the need to be repainted every couple of years.
And some people, like my family, skirt the trailer with aluminum siding. Won’t rot and doesn’t necessarily need to be painted. (As a quick aside, I was once accosted by someone who accused me of thinking my family was “high and mighty” for flaunting our aluminum siding…)
Siding is a good idea beyond just keeping out raccoons and drunks, though. It’s also handy for keeping the wind from screaming through the underside of your trailer and freezing your pipes.
Sometimes, though, despite the siding, despite having wrapped your pipes in whatever it was that Dad wrapped them in, you just can’t fight winter.
Was it roughly January or February that the Native Americans called The Moon of Popping Trees? Because that’s the kind of month that will freeze your pipes solid.
And so it was on a day where the ambient temperature was perhaps 30, 40 degrees below zero that my mother announced that the pipes were frozen.
You know what this means, don’t you?
It means the toilet no longer flushes.
There was a collective groan from my brother, sister and I.
Need to use the toilet? You now have the option of running to The Building - seven blocks away and overseen by a man who would disappear six months later in the middle of the night after charges were brought against him for sexually assaulting a fourth grader - or using an ice cream bucket.
Hmm. Walk a half-mile in the sub-zero to The Building or pee in the same bucket your father has just used.
We are all grossed-out, except for my father.
“Think of it as a new kind of camping!” he chortles.
My mother points out that it’s just going to get colder as night falls, Paul, and would he kindly just get his butt out there and thaw it out?
My father good-naturedly dons every article of clothing he owns and shimmies under the trailer with a hair dryer where he has, at least, the skirting to block the wind.
Do you know how long it takes to unfreeze plumbing with a hair dryer?
No; me, neither.
But Dad knows.
I am on the bed, playing Barbies, when my sister enters the room. She is two years young than I am and has dedicated her life up to that point to sticking her fingers in my ribs, both literally and figuratively.
“Did you know if you look down the toilet you can see Dad?”
“You can? You cannot!”
“No, really! You really can! Come see.”
In a move that will haunt me for the rest of my life, I follow her into the bathroom, where she lifts the lid on the toilet and I peer into the water; and for just a moment, I expect to see my father, lying on his back under the trailer…
“AHHHHHHHH! Kevin! Kevin! Come look! Pearl’s looking in the toilet for Dad!!!”
It’s one of Karen's cherished memories.
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