“Too fast, dad. Too fast,” I quietly mutter under my breath as we swerve nervously down the highway. I’m now feeling that I might not be cut out for this nomadic life -- not if it involves fish-tailing at seventy miles an hour. “I don’t want to die today,” I foolishly offer. Silly little girl, it will be alright. It’s a sunny day, only swishes of clouds in the sky, the wind might have died down, dad has his steady, able hands on the wheel, and what’s more: we have our sweet silver treasure secured to the back of the Ford and we’re beginning our shiny, brand new adventure. It is, at once, thrilling and terrifying.
Yesterday morning after breakfast, Dad, Uncle Bob and I went directly to the lot behind the old downtown post office where she was parked. Dave, the seller, is a hopeless junk-and-old-stuff collector. Inside the historic building, he has a storehouse of untouched wonder in the way of old oriental rugs, church pews, ancient cash registers, some really unsightly paintings, barrister’s cabinets...you name it, he’s probably got it hiding there. Meanwhile, back outside, Bob and dad set to work getting it hitched up to the Expedition. As they cranked and tweaked, I climbed up on the squeaky step, ducked in, and my heart fell at the disgusting display of an unfinished life inside.
Back in June, when I was ready to make the purchase, I was told that it had already been sold. A young man (about my age) needed a fresh start and wanted to give Airstream living a try, but suffice it to say, his addictions got the best of him. Despite all of these little road blocks, I received a call mid-summer with another offer to buy the trailer, as it had become available once more. Dave said that he felt that this was never his project to complete, and knew that it would eventually belong to someone who would love it well. When told that it would finally be sold to someone else, the young man (who shall remain nameless) told Dave, “All I want is to spend one more night in the trailer.” So he did, and that very night, he was arrested for public drunkenness in the deserted downtown streets. This rendered him unable to do the final deep clean we had been assured would take place. I will spare the details, but let me say, deep cleaning was, indeed, what it needed.
Mom and Aunt Amy had gotten all the necessary supplies for pulling carpet out (including plastic gloves and face masks) but arrived just a little too late -- as the last section of the nasty purple-plum-colored stuff was exiting. We had a good laugh, and donned the gloves and masks anyway, just to tickle ourselves and for a photo-op. We eventually pulled out of the parking lot, bound for Uncle John’s property in the country. As we drove, we joked about how strange it would feel, always having a trailer right up behind the vehicle, just about three feet back. Bob said, “I wonder if that guy’s ever gonna pass......” (chuckle, chuckle.) Against fire-filled autumn trees, the day was blustery and grey, and the sheen of the trailer’s skin appeared tired and dull. It pulled straight and true, however, around all of the curves and over all the hilly spots, happy to be on its way to a new life with new owners who will adore it.
As soon as she was stationary and level in the corner of their lot beneath a bare tree or two, I opened all of the operating windows, including the jalousies, which I am giddy about. We worked on flushing out the water system, then I rolled up my sleeves and my jeans, snapped on a pair of gloves, surgeon style, stepped up and got to work. I scrubbed the trays, burners and elements of the Magic Chef stovetop and oven, right down to the little black knobs. The white porcelain sink benefited from those flamboyant, orchestral scrubbing bubbles which smile so pleasantly from the can. With a putty knife I schlepped out about a full cup of corn syrup that had spilled in one of the shelves above the sink.
Armed with scouring powder, bleach, rags, and a trusty paring knife for scraping, I spent the afternoon loving her back to life through all the spilled coffee grounds and stains, the sticky, unidentified substances, the dead junebugs in the sink, the baked-on scum...it felt like going through a detox experience with a loved one – hard to stand, triggering the gag reflex, but imperative for working toward the good that is inarguably at the end of the road. I spoke to her as I worked. While I scraped the gunk from the walls of the sink I whispered to her, “You’re going to be beautiful again, just wait.” And then I whistled a few tunes to initiate good vibes and to produce a happy feeling in her belly. I thanked God for her -- for the fulfilling of this little dream of mine.
At one point, I was stepping out to get some fresh water from the hose and was met by three cows standing by the barbed wire fence. They stared through their long wispy eyelashes as if to say, “What IS that shiny monstrosity and why have you brought it here? Furthermore, when will you leave and take it away?” As the day got darker and colder, work time came to a slowing. The clouds were beginning to move and dissipate, and the reflection of the peeking blue in the silver skin brought her to life. A more gleaming, hopeful countenance appeared.
The family started trickling back in from all their various wanderings, and after a final mopping of the linoleum floor, we lined up our glasses on the countertop and pulled everyone (and I mean everyone – 15 of our family members) up into the front of the trailer. We had a few pictures taken for posterity, laughed and marveled at the realization of this dream, and then raised our glasses in a champagne toast…
“To the trailer. May she ride in glory."