||[Dec. 3rd, 2013|12:08 am]
When you're a kid, you know it's time to go home when the streetlights come on. I know this because of multiple self-congratulatory memes from people who think they've been brought up right, unlike kids nowadays. Well, I have a hard time relating to these sorts of memes. The streetlights didn't pull me home. Streetlights weren't exactly ubiquitous to my childhood.
When I was growing up, I didn't always have bedrooms, electricity, or plumbing. My family lived in campers and travel trailers, strangers in strange lands where the people viewed us, the aberrant interlopers, with fear and distrust. People broke into our homemade camper looking for loot we did not have, peppered our livestock with pellet guns, stole our bony old gander, and destroyed an old dory my dad was fixing up. We had to drive to a neighbouring town for potable water because the livestock wouldn't drink from nearby streams. The water was poison, and we couldn't drink from the town well. The locals polluted it with used maxi pads and other filth. We grew our own food in frigid fields. I spent hours picking and planting potatoes. I was allowed to pick out a packet of seeds for a garden row--so long as it was for food and not for wasteful things like flowers. I picked out rape seed because I thought it sounded exciting and dangerous. I was nine.
I've seen people discussing how only rich, spoiled people can afford to have horses, and I'm boggled by such a one-sided view. People who say such things must presume horses are just four-legged toys that you wear fancy clothes to ride. Perhaps they don't think Mennonites, Amish, cowboys, or seaweed harvesters are real people. Maybe they don't know that people like me have relied on horses and ponies instead of cars for transportation, or that we used pony teams to bring back wood necessary for our survival. Several of the places where I've lived were heated by wood stove. I cooked on a wood stove, too. I know soft wood doesn't burn as hot as hard wood, and if you burn wood from apple trees, it'll burn so hot the cast iron stove will glow a bright cherry red. Don't burn too much of that. It's scary.
I didn't live in a place with streetlights until I was ten, and that wasn't for very long. I lived in a campground/trailer park. We lived in a camper, all six of us: Mom, Dad, my sister, my dog, and my sister's cat. The livestock had been sold or given away. We couldn't bring the animals across the country with us. I was allowed to bring three books and two toys. There was no room for anything more.
There's no such thing as privacy when you live in a camper. There are no bedrooms. The only possible escape is a bathroom big enough for a tiny camp toilet.
Lately, I've been seeing a lot of people posting links about people living in tiny little homes: places about the size of the camper where I was squashed together with my family. People romanticize this. They say how nice it must be to not have many things, to not be materialistic, to have only what you need. Life would be so much richer. It looks so cozy.
Maybe, just maybe, if you've grown up in suburbia, or in places with large public spaces like libraries and community centres and malls where you can escape when the weather is bad, maybe then, you could fantasize about living in such a tiny space for a while. Maybe the cabin fever won't seize you harder than it did me. The closeness of space packs you in tighter and tighter, and a band of stress wraps and pulls around your chest until breathing is strenuous, your heart pounds like war drums in your ears, and all you want to do is run and run, gasps of burning air stabbing down your trachea into your lungs. Just run until there are no people for miles. But you can't do that if you live in a little camper in a little campground. There's nowhere to go but the little laundromat, and you'll be kicked out for loitering. Or maybe, like I did in other times, you'll live in a travel trailer in the wilderness. Then there is no other building where you can take shelter. If you run, you've got to come back. Unless it's the right time of year, you will succumb to the elements. You have to come back. And so you return to a one-roomed squat that smells of portapotty, damp boots, hot food, and wet dog. You do your homework in your shared bunk with your sister who has the flu. You hear your parents having sex a foot or two away and be too young to understand, but know just enough to realize it's supposed to be private. You sleep with your fingers in your ears a lot, pillow pulled uselessly over your head. You fantasize about someday having your very own room.
Do you really think that little house is so wonderful?