growing up trailer trash.

Posted on Apr 26, 2011 in Family

I grew up in a very poor part of Southern Indiana. Sure, there were a few well-off residents of my county, but for the most part, families were scraping by from paycheck-to-paycheck. I had friends who lived in partially renovated barns with no insulation. And friends who lived in houses with plywood for windows. And a lot of friends who lived in mobile homes.

I lived in a mobile home.

Until the age of 11, I lived in an full-on, sitting on cinder-blocks, single-wide mobile home. I am, at my heart, trailer trash.

There are a lot of stigmas that go along with living in a mobile home. Even now, I’m guilty of judging people based on the mobility of their dwelling. People living in trailers must be poor/unmotivated/trashy/dirty/etc.

Growing up in the lower-economic area I did, it didn’t faze me that I lived in a trailer. Even though, by today’s standards, we appeared “poor” we were actually much better off than a lot of my schoolmates. I always had food. My parents always came to my softball games. My Christmas stockings were always full. I had a happy childhood.

When I was 11, we moved into my parents’ dream house. As I drifted into my high school years, I was suddenly the “rich” girl at school because of our house. And suddenly, I desperately needed to hide my trailer trash roots.

I liked that my peers looked up to my life and my family. I was proud to have great parents, a great house and a happy family. When people would ask me where we lived before our current house, I’d dance around the fact that I’d lived in a wooden-paneled trailer for the first decade of my life. For some reason, something that was never a problem when I was living in the situation was now a source of constant embarrassment.

The hiding of my mobile home roots has continued well into my 20s. For the longest time, the trailer trash part of my childhood seemed so disconnected from the adult me. Strong, well-educated, and a little bit hip—I never felt like growing up in a trailer fit with my personal brand.

In the past few years, I’ve been inching up to a revelation.

Growing up in a mobile home isn’t just a part of my history, but it is a basic building block of my personality.

The foundation for this epiphany comes from the reasoning we lived in the trailer to begin with. My parents both had good jobs—we weren’t poor. The reason we lived in that trailer is because my parents dreamed bigger. Living in that small trailer allowed my parents to send four kids to college, give us all good childhoods and eventually build their dream house, all without using credit cards.

That red-doored trailer is a symbol of my parents’ dedication to providing a better life to next generation.

And now that I get that, I am proud to be born out of trailer trash. My humble roots are the reason I am where I am today. The reason I could go to college is because of the padded vinyl on the kitchen bar. The reason my parents could buy me a car in high school is because of the orange shag carpet. That trailer was the start of everything good in my life. And because of my parents’ temporary sacrifice of the American Dream, my siblings and I were able to go on to amazing things.

It is a lesson my parents taught me without saying a word. It’s taken almost 17 years for me to figure all this out. But I certainly hope it is a gift I can pass along to my future kids.

 

28 Comments

  1. I love the last photo of your family. You can tell all of those smiles are real and that your family really is a “happy family.” P.S. I love your dress in that photo, where did you get it?

    • I made it from fabric I got at Joanns! :)
      And that isn’t even all my family. It is impossible to get us all at the same place at the same time.

  2. Trailer girls unite! We lived in our lime green single wide until I was 7 when we built our house – which was still very modest, but a palace by comparison. I don’t think I ever realized that we didn’t have a lot of money until I was older. I too had an amazing family and my parents worked their asses off to support us.

    One of my favorite quotes ever was from Hilary Swank when she accepted her Oscar “I don’t know what I did in this life to deserve all of this. I’m just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream.”

    • Oooh! I love that quote!

  3. Love it!! My parents still live in the double-wide trailer I grew up in. My boyfriend said when he met me in college he imagined I lived in a big white house with columns on the front porch, ect. and then I took him home for the first time. It means alot when you can appreciate and make something good out of and never forget humble beginnings.

    • I have that same thing happen to me, too. When people find out I grew up in a trailer, they are always surprised!

  4. Love this! After my parents got divorced my mom moved with us into a small apartment (located above a plumbing company/garage). I distinctly remember having food dropped off at our house by the neighbors and people my mom knew from church, and remember getting Christmas Dinner – turkey and all the fixins – in a basket from the same people. At the time, I never realized it was because we were so poor – I just thought we had really great neighbors! My mom sacrificed SO much for us – she kept a roof over our heads, our bellies full, and smiles on our faces even though she was basically rubbing two pennies together hoping to create more. All the while, mom was studying her ass off to better her career – and over the years she went from an entry level mail room clerk at a big insurance company to a department manager at the same company!

    Looking back, I learned SO much from those years spent above McKinley Plumbing – learned that it’s not WHAT you have, but WHO you have in your life that matters, and that as long as you never lose sight of your dreams & keep pushing, you really can be whatever you want to be!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this with us today. I think so often in our youth we are upset by the things that our parents do, rather than realizing it was for our benefit. I remember being so mad at my parents for making me “miss out” on things that I though were “sooooooo important” back then, because they made me study or work, but in the long run those are the things that were important and have made me a better person

    • It is so interesting how our minds develop as we grow older and we feel so grown up and so “right” as teenagers, but how wrong we were!

  6. Love this! I grew up living in a trailer near my grandma’s house in a not so great part of town. To avoid going to a dangerous school my Mom worked hard to send me to a private school in the next town. I was the poor kid in a school filled with privileged rich kids which always made me feel less than. I never had anyone over to my house and I remember going to one of my friends a lot to play and being blown away that her massive house had a finished basement that was about 3 times the size of our trailer..3 of the rooms were filled with toys! We built a house when I was 10 and moved to a great town and I was able to attend public school! We were never rich but being able to have friends from all different backgrounds made me feel like I wasn’t an outsider anymore. I think the way I grew up really gave me an appreciation for working hard and not taking anything for granted. My husband and I don’t make very much but we’ve just bought our dream home, a huge(3,000 sq ft!) historic house built in 1856! I remember sharing a room with my mom and little brother.. now I have more rooms than I know what to do with!

    • Aww, I love this story!

  7. Is this trail a new extension of the B-Line or Rails to Trails? I only ever run on Clear Creek, but I’m looking for more variety!

    • There are all connected! Clear Creek connects to the end of the Bloomington Rail Trail, which connects to the new portion of the B-Line trail (it isn’t quite done, but you can still run on it), which connects to the current B-Line trail.

      • I have to try that! I always stay on Clear Creek and just run back and forth on it until I’m ready to die of boredom … Thanks for the info! :)

  8. I love this!

    • Thanks! :D

  9. At least I read this at home so I didn’t have to explain my tears to my co-workers. I loved this.

    • Aww, thanks!

  10. I just got really teary reading this. I can so relate. Funny, Casey is from Indiana and has a very similar story from growing up. Such a beautiful post!

    • Thank you! I think the doing better for the next generation thing is a pretty basic Midwestern (and Indiana) value.

  11. Hi, I found your blog through Emily @ Daily Garnish. What a great first post to read. I grew up the opposite. I grew up in fairly nice houses for my entire life. I moved into a trailer when I was 21 w/ the love of my life. When we moved there my mom said, “My princess must really be in love to move here.” It was an oooold trailer w/ wood paneling. It needed work. A tree had fallen on it during one of the hurricanes. It was a mess, but we moved there and lived there for 5 years. At first i was embarrassed of where we lived.. Then, I got over it. We paid $350/mth in rent. Most of my friends were paying triple that. We just built our very own home. That is something I’m proud of. Living in a trailer allowed us to have a lot of freedom during our early 20′s. We did a lot of stuff we wouldn’t have been able to do had we been paying what most people paid for rent. I am very humbled by my 5 yrs of living in a trailer.

    • LOVE hearing the flip side of it! Thank you for sharing. :D

  12. Trailer trash isn’t about living in a trailer… it’s about treating yourself and everything around you like trash.

    You were never trailer trash. You just happened to live in a mobile home.

    • Thank you. That is so incredibly true.

  13. Wow this post is so inspiring and educational. I truly believe in looking beyond stereotypes and your story shows how so many people haven’t a clue on the reality of a situation. Wonderfully said.

  14. I saw a link to this post from Emily and I’m glad I did. This was a really great story. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned. Your family is truly awesome and beautiful!

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