When I was 12 my family moved into temporary housing while we were waiting for our new house to be built. Our old house sold rather quickly and unexpected, so we had to find housing for the six of us pretty quick. When you live in the country, there are no apartments. If we lived in the city, we’d just rent a condo or apartment and be done with it. In the country, property is the commodity. Need temporary housing? Buy a trailer and put it on the family property. It’s the answer to quick-fix housing for kids that get knocked up, newlyweds, divorcees and anybody that’s down on their luck – temporarily or permanently. So, we rented a trailer. It was in a little subdivision on a small corner lot.
I started my period in the old house at age 11. We moved into the trailer shortly after, so I was in full-on pubescent hormonal meltdown. I was a tomboy. I spent my days playing baseball with my brothers and cousins in the pasture behind our house, helping PawPaw in the garden, hitting golf balls and reading. I had some girly things I did like play with Barbies with my sister, but I was an outside girl. I loved it when it rained a lot in low-lying Louisiana. The ditches and the pasture would fill up with water. My sisters and brothers and I would put on our swimsuits or our birthday suits and go slipping and sliding in the ditches and water puddles all over the property. That would all end when we moved to the trailer, and I had no idea. I was totally blind-sided.
I know there must have been changes going on in my body because one day I woke up and had these giant breasts and pubic hair. But, honestly, I don’t remember it happening. I was totally oblivious. My cousin Marilyn told Mama one day that she HAD to get me a bra. I think my parents were in denial, too. So, Mama got me one of those training bras which was already too small by the time I put it on. I didn’t need training. I was already advanced. It wasn’t too long before Mama bought me a bunch of girly clothes that flattered my newly blossoming figure and showed some skin. I started shaving my legs while I was there. I was in the middle of a huge transition between child and young woman. And, it was in that trailer that I came of age.
We were cramped in that trailer. There were four kids and two parents. The bedrooms for us kids were nothing but bunk beds stuck in the middle of a hallway that was divided up by sliding doors. I slept on the top bunk. My sister slept on the bottom. We had a chest of drawers on the other side of the hallway, and that was our space. During the day, the doors were opened, and it was a fully functioning hallway. Most of our time was spent either in the kitchen or dining room or outside. I asked Mama how she remembered that time, and she said she thought it was fun. She loved having kids over, and we were a landing pad for all of the kids in the neighborhood. Larry Dale, one of our neighbors, was there all the time. His cousin, Russell, came over frequently, and he was my childhood heart-throb. He was the recipient of my first kiss, and I never got over it. When he died way too young, I remember Mama calling me in some far off city and telling me about his death, and I cried. It had probably been 10-15 years since I’d seen him, but he was a constant tug on my soul all my life – still is. I’ll see him in Heaven, I suppose. Anyway, the neighborhood kids were the cast of characters at the time. There was Ann, Shelly, Dean and Tammie.
Ann and I got our ears pierced by Mama. She froze our earlobes with ice cubes, stuck a potato behind our ears and impaled a sewing needle through our ears. There’s a big piece of cartilage in the back that was a lot tougher than Mama imagined. Ann fainted while she was doing it. But, what are you going to do? We wanted our ears pierced, and she finished the job. Back then, getting your ears pierced was a rite of passage into young womanhood. Now, we could wear pretty earrings and dress like girls. Ann was my most favorite partner in crime. I smoked my first cigarettes in the woods behind that trailer. I can’t remember how we got them, and I can’t remember if it was Tammie or Ann with me or both, but we lighted up some Marlboros and choked our way through our first smoke. I wasn’t my last. It was another sign of maturity. I smoked. Woohoo….teenage-hood was going to be adventurous.
The day Mama brought home all those girly clothes I remember being a little taken aback. They looked like something foreign to me. I remember one of the shirts was a little low cut, and it was white with these pretty flowers on it. It was knit, and it was a different shape than I’d ever worn. Instead of a straight piece of fabric that just fell straight below my breasts, it had seams and darts that hugged my breasts and then tapered down to hug my waist. I remember my Dad being very uncomfortable with the whole thing. Another one she gave me was a little red knit midriff that showed off my belly. There was actually a verbal exchange over that one. Daddy did not like it. Mama would have none of it. She said it wasn’t trashy. I was a girl, and it was okay to wear it. And, I was surprised that he lost that argument. He was usually in charge of stuff, but Mama for some reason was dead set I was going to feel okay about being a girl and showing off my new toys. She gave me other clothes that day, but I loved those two tops. I wore them for years. I still remember them as if they are hanging in my closet today. And, in my memory, I looked beautiful, although I’m sure I was caught somewhere between awkward and scared to death. I still had a lot of tomboy in me. I still do.
Shortly before we moved into our new house – we were in the trailer for about a year – I got my first boyfriend. He was a redhead, stocky, hard-headed and an amazing athlete. I fell head over heels for the first time. I’m sure his attraction to me had something to do with those shirts Mama gave me, and he would remain the love of my life for about 4 years and an obsession for years after that. By the time we moved into the new house, I was in full-fledged teenage-hood. I had a boyfriend. I knew how to showcase my new-found body in tight-fitting jeans, low-cut tops and high-heeled shoes. I painted my nails everyday. My boyfriend would call me and ask what color I was painting my nails for the next day. I think he thought I was kind of cute, too.
After I wrote my blog yesterday, I realized how pivotal that time in that trailer was in my growing up. It was as if my transition into puberty was delightfully showcased in that trailer. It was a fun place to live. Like Mama, I remember that trailer being a fun place. I don’t have any pictures of that time, but I don’t need them. Those pictures are emblazoned in my mind. I enjoyed being trailer trash. I’d do it again if I knew it’d be that fun. It was full of laughter and change and memories. It was a time when I was still innocent and not in trouble or pushing the edge of the envelope. I was being led into a new world by Mama – a world that I didn’t even understand.