List of conflicts
living in a camping trailer
No running water: no bathroom, no shower etc.
Small living space: no privacy, not enough room for “stuff” Too many pets: too costly, too much mess
Dad never around
Year of being homeless in high school
having to share a bed with my mom
Loneliness of being forced to homeschool/missing public school
Living in poverty, not being able to afford necessities
The year with the moldy wet car
Living with a “crazy” mom
being teased in middle school for lifestyle
being teased for having big ears
No running water:
This was not easy to share. I am hesistant to share a lot of detail on these experiences but this was good practice for being “raw” about things. Open to suggestions please!!!
When I was two my mom and I moved into a non-functional 17 ft. travel trailer. It was parked on a piece of beachfront property that Mom was care-taking in exchange for rent. The trailer had no working appliances and until I was six there was no electricity anyway. In addition, the faucet attached to the main house was the only working source of water and would be for the next thirteen years. Mom connected several hoses together to move water to the little yard she had built around the trailer for privacy but it was still only accessible outside.
When I was really young it wasn’t a big deal. We used bottled water for brushing teeth, boiled big pots of hot water for “showers” and shared a plastic bucket for the bathroom. However, as I got older it was more awkward to improvise those necessities. Mom would take me to shower at friend’s houses and ordered a port-a-let service for the bathroom. But money was always tight and some months she couldn’t keep up payments on it. Eventually the bill went to collections and we were back to the plastic bucket. I hated it more than anything. Some mornings I would “hold it” because I didn’t want to go on top of what had already been sitting in there from the day before. It would be full to the brim with the foulest smelling blend of piss and excrement and Mom would refuse to empty it saying she felt too sick. I’d be forced to wait, go outside – or worse – use it anyway. The bucket sat inside a real toilet frame so I would place my hands on the seat and prop myself up as some people do in a public restroom. It was uncomfortable but the sharp plastic rim of the little bucket digging into my skin was worse and if I sat down I’d get splashed with God knows what.
Every couple months Mom would dig a new giant hole in the backyard behind the trailer for dumping the bucket contents. You could smell it if you walked close enough even though it was hidden under wooden planks and hay. I peeked under the planks once and the rotten smell burnt my nose and turned my stomach. I remember noticing an oily swirl resting on top of the sewage like you see on greasy street puddles. I never opened it again.
The showers got tougher as I got older. We stopped alternating between friend’s houses when I was about eight. I started riding bikes with Mom down to the harbor showers. She was dating a man who let us borrow his residential key from living on the docks. We’d go there every three days since we had to be careful not to be noticed – they had strict policies about “outsiders” using the facilities. I understood that if someone discovered we didn’t live there then Wayne would lose his key privilege – and so would we.
The floor of the shower room was always slippery and gross and covered with other people’s hair. Mom instructed me not to touch anything and to leave my sandals on, even under the water – which was cold most of the time because the person before us had run the hot out of it. This forced us to shower as quickly as possible. Mom called it “army showers.” I remember the ride home was always freezing cause of my cold wet hair. There was no hair dryer in the bathroom and we didn’t own one. Mom said they were a waste of money since natural air could dry it just fine. If there was no one waiting, we could take our time getting dressed and I’d try to towel dry it a little before heading back. Some days I didn’t even get to dry off my skin all the way because one of the boat people would be banging on the door and Mom was worried we’d get caught.
When Wayne and Mom broke up we lost our shower spot. Since she had made friends with her employers at the local Cafe, they agreed to let us use the shower upstairs. It was much cleaner and nicer then the one at the harbor and not as cold. Instead sometimes I’d get burnt by scalding water running through the pipes from the dishwasher downstairs. After about a year or so, most of the dishwashers were familiar with our routine (still every three days). The nice ones would pause their work until we were both finished, although I think Mom throwing a fit about being burnt a few times was pretty influential. Despite the awkwardness, I loved using the Cafe because I finally got to shower by myself. It was way too small to share and so for the first time in my life I had some privacy for undressing and washing.