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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Listen To Your Little Sister At Your Own Risk

I grew up in a trailer, and because my father believed that “it’s harder to hit a moving target”, we moved.

Often.

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.

26 comments:

Lori E said...

So...did you see him? Doh, I get it. Stupid sisters.
Did I ever tell you about the time I whacked my sister with the metal vacuum cleaner pipe? It is on my blog. Stupid sisters.

Carol said...

The joy of freezing.
Sister had ya' good there! My sister once tried to throw a phone at me (one of the old, square, push-button types, heavy) and with my superior reflexes, I stuck my hand out right away and the phone slammed back into her face. She cried, I smiled and got to use the phone :)

ellen abbott said...

Aren't siblings adorable?

Jenn Jilks said...

You are deliciously humerous! Nothing like self-depracating humour! Thanks for 'following'
My Muskoka !
You are in my blogroll for sure!

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

She so got you ; - )

Gregory said...

Thanks, I needed a laugh :)

Ms Sparrow said...

I lived in a "mobile home" for five years. I remember both the water line and sewer line freezing up in the winter in spite of banking around the bottom. Sometimes, we had to leave the water tap running slightly all night to keep both from freezing. Thanks for reviving those fond memories!!

Douglas said...

I was the youngest... you will never know the pain.

CatLadyLarew said...

At least your trailer had a toilet! You must still think of your dad every time you lift the lid of a toilet. Stay warm and don't let the pipes freeze!

Stephanie said...

Great story!

Irish Gumbo said...

Toilet punk'd!

So are you still plotting your revenge? It is, after all, a dish best eaten cold...

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Wow, the younger sister wins a big one! Very funny.

Frozen pipes can happen in non-mobile homes, too. Shortly after we moved into this house, we had one of those freeze-your-buns-off winters, and the upstairs sink got no water. Turned out someone had wrapped insulation on the, how shall I say it, indoor side of the pipes instead of between the pipe and the exterior wall. Duh. And in a similar situation my husband's brother-in-law famously posted a note in their family bathroom that said "Leave a tickle."

Jayne Martin said...

Ah,, that we should all be blessed with such family memories. LOL!

Madame DeFarge said...

Childhood is so cruel in many way. Mostly because of the children who inhabit it. But she got you fair and square :)

The Retired One said...

Such a cute story, Pearl! I not only lived in a trailer once but TWICE in my life..once when my dad was in the Air Force and we rented a trailer until base housing opened up and once when we were first married...I know about the frozen pipe thing in both of them PLUS in a Victorian house we owned. And all of those times? We used a hair dryer...except once when we used a blow torch..and well, you don't want to know what happened THAT time....

Fragrant Liar said...

Aaaaaaaah-ha-ha-ha-ha. I LOVE that story, Pearl. We have a favorite in our family too, about my sister climbing up to me on the top bunk and holding out her finger, to tell me to "smell my new perfume." Well, she had been itching her behind, so you can imagine . . . We tell that story to EVERYONE. So I can empathize with your sister's gag (and now mine...).

Tempo said...

I used to holiday in a van..and didnt like it much. Just the wife and I, no freezing weather or howling winds and I still didnt like it much. It must be hard sharing such cramped conditions with all the family, winter and maybe tornados..

Passion said...

High and mighty Pearl..I like the sound of that! Ive got older sisters and Im the youngest. I also have the sickest sence of humour so I guess my sisters tell stories like this about me! Younger sisters unite! (throwing up fist in mock threat)

powdergirl said...

Ho ho ho, I know a repost when I see one, Madam Pearl.

See? I pay attention!

The title of your post?

I have 3 older sisters that would concur wholeheartedly with that bit of advice : D

Also, I've been called 'high and mighty' about a thousand times in my life, and I've never even owned and aluminum skirt. Some people are just so insecure.

justsomethoughts... said...

"It’s also handy for keeping the wind from screaming through the underside of your trailer and freezing your pipes."

this is why i wear pants.

mapstew said...

We never lived in a trailer, but our house didn't have heating, and the Big Coats would always be a luxury on top of our bed in the cold months! And Ma would plug in the iron, and warm up the sheets before we got into bed! (Three brothers in each bed, you got to be in the middle if you were quick!)

xxx

Brian Miller said...

lol...this so sounds like something we would have done to my brother...thanks for the chuckles.

Jocelyn said...

Honey, your father was the GRANDADDY of home makeover shows...get it: hair dryer...makeover...

Oh, and stop being an uppity bitch with all your bragging about aluminum skirting and such. Some people used waxed paper and marshmallows. Now THAT was cold.

Joanie M said...

She really got you, didn't she! LOL Thanks for the laugh!

That Baldy Fella said...

Ah, the old "you can see dad if you look down the toilet" trick. Works every time on goldfish...

My name is PJ. said...

My very first, own it yourself home at the age of 29 was a trailer. We would let the water run all night if it was really cold...and the hairdryer unfroze pipes at least once...but my boyfriend was the one holding the hairdryer.

Your sister knows how to work an audience. Dinner at your house must have been fun!