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Sunday, April 25, 2010


I grew up in a trailer.

We moved once a year, sometimes more than that, one dirt-road court after another.

“It’s harder to hit a moving target!” Dad crowed.

The lack of sustained contact influences one, as you would suspect it would; and I compensated by developing a rather dangerous habit.

I became a Peeping Tom.

Don’t get me wrong! I wasn’t the peeping-in-the-bedroom type, and I wasn’t the I-hope-I-catch-you-showering type.

That would be wrong.

I just stood outside of people’s living rooms, looking in.

No big deal.

At the time, I told myself that those people wanted to be seen. Why else would they leave lights on, drapes open, in a trailer park? In hindsight, of course, they could hardly have been expecting the child that crouched in their bushes. I didn’t think about my actions for long, of course. I just wanted to know the people around me.

But I would not be in any park long enough to know any of the people in it.

And I would not be remembered.

Who were these people, these new neighbors of mine? I watched in the waning light of an autumn evening as the bikers two trailers away from ours pull a mirrored tray out from under the couch as they cut straws in half.

The windows were open.

“I used to use Burger King straws,” said the dark-eyed one as he slid a driver’s license up and down the mirror. “But I find they lack the finesse of your McDonald’s straw.”

“What’d he say?” asked the girl lying on the floor in front of the TV.

The blond one answered. “He said he finds that the BK straws lack finesse.”

The girl rolled on to her back and lifted her legs toward the ceiling, her hands at the small of her back. “What’s that? What’s binesse?” she said.

The dark-eyed biker put an index finger to one side of his nose, closing off a nostril, and used the straw in question to snort the line he had just laid out.

“It means – “ he stopped short, and his eyes went to the living room window. He lifted a finger, motioned to the front door. The man seated on the stacked beer cases rose quietly.

Heart pounding, I slid out from under the bushes and ran down to the darkness of the creek that ran behind the trailers.

The screen door slammed as I flew into our living room.

My mother called out from the kitchen. “Where have you been?”

“The bikers two doors down prefer McDonald’s straws to Burger King,” I panted.

“Discerning,” my mother muttered. “Wash up for dinner.”


steelxmagnolia said...

Impeccable! Your words create not only the mood, the scene, but your brilliance in capturing a moment in time ... poignant, witty and always with a twist. Cheers!

Barbara Blundell said...

Trailer life sounds very exciting and stimulating ! In my youth traveling ten miles down the road was like going on safari into uncharted territory . As for further afield- unimaginable !

CatLadyLarew said...

The things you learn from being a Peeping Pearl...

Zaedah said...

In my childhood trailer park (our trailer stayed put as astonishing 12 years) we were so close to our neighbors that one only had to look out a window to be a peeping tom. We could see every nose hair from the comfort of our bedroom.

Lo said...

wonderful ! I, too, used to love peeping-tom-ism
but also just to insinuate myself into another's life briefly. I always wondered if it was any better where they were. Now that I am old and wise I know it wasn't.......just looked better from the outside.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

K..if you were just standing on the road looking in then that is okay - once you introduce the 'crouch' to your nightly excursions then its creepy, borderline serial killer behavior. Why do I have an image of you in the driveways with one of those huge disc shaped lolipops. Then you would witness something wrong like a murder (which happen in trailer parks more than you know) and you would run away leaving your loli behind which the killer would then use to track you. Hey, thats not a bad idea for a movie....yes...a movie.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Those were early lessons in observation, which you have developed to a fine art in your writing! (Yes, I suppose I'm calling you a modern-day Peeping Tom; you just don't have to hide it!)

Tgoette said...

Being a Tom myself, I've never really warmed to that expression. Whenever I "peeped", which wasn't every night during my adolescence, it was only to make sure that the vivacious redhead next door hadn't fallen down in the shower. Now that I think about it, I probably should have gotten a medal.

Simply Suthern said...

Reads comments, Pulls blinds a little tighter.

Bossy Betty said...

I;d say your people watching skills made you into the writer you are today! I remember when McDonalds had coffee stir sticks that had little tiny bowls in the end of them. They discontinued them once they found out they were the perfect tool for cocaine use.

Hilary said...

Sometimes we learn a little too much a little too early. Sometimes that knowledge forms the basis for a keen story-telling skill. No doubt about that for you.

gaf85 said...

Pearl, What remarkable observation. Sometimes those acquired skills can become our strengths for a reason. I think we all have our share of disturbing memories from our childhood. Luckily, life gives us all a chance to hopefully do a little better when we get old enough to figure a few things out. I'm glad you did not judge yourself.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Like you, as a child I was enthralled by my neighbors interiors as darkness fell and the livingroom lights would come on one by one. So many different styles of furniture, goodness...just look at that lamp, and oh my...the wallpaper! Peeping tomette? Perhaps. But my obsession morphed into a lifeong career in real estate appraising. Yea,yea,yea, I got a number for ya on that house Ms.Loan Officer...but you should see their vintage tile!!

Ruthibelle said...

A well-told story. And a well-learnt lesson, we hope.

Warty Mammal said...


If your mother had only known!

Teena in Toronto said...

We moved a lot when I was a kid ... I hated it!

Pat said...

Poignant memories...You were a very perceptive little girl and you are still.

Funny but sad that you experienced that.

who said...

AHH WHY YOU LITTLE...*regains composure*

Pearl, the owner of the house is NOT a Free Soul and was not present during those times. He was vacationing in Baker, Oregon for two months. The gentlemen and the lady were house sitters.