by Karrie Sue Chambless
I don’t live in a trailer park; never have. I wanted to, though. Some of my cousins did, and I always had fun when I stayed with them. The words “trailer park” mean many different things to people. Some good, some bad. For me, it’s the country come to town. Sort of like the best of both worlds, and I still have the option to pick up and move if I want to. Which is funny, 'cuz I lived in the same brick house from pre-K to sometime in junior college. So, being mobile wasn’t part of my upbringing.
Maybe that was the fascination. I mean, who doesn’t dream of a life beyond these woods where the lights shine bright? As long as I can remember, I was filled with wanderlust. When a favorite great uncle and his, um, sixth wife, lived in a small camper on the back of a pickup in the middle of Axtell, Texas, I thought that had to be the best thing goin’.
I was in middle school and spent some time there in the summer. My uncle had a cafe in Waco, and one in the Groesbeck Auction & Livestock Company. That was probably my first job, though I didn’t even get paid. I watched the runnings of the cafe with my great-aunt, great-uncle, and my “new” aunt. I took orders, served food and drinks, and learned how to count back change, probably one of the most valuable skills I ever learned. We spent a lot of time on the road between Waco, Axtell, and Groesbeck and it’s a summer I’ve never forgotten.
Finally, after graduating from high school, I got the chance for a trip of a lifetime. A close friend invited me to go to Europe with her and her dad. The plan was to arrive in Germany, pick up a car, drive down to the Italian Riviera and stay a week with her dad. Then, we were on our own! HUH? WHA?? Yeah. I had never even flown in a plane to another city, much less another country. I hyperventilated at take-off from the excitement.
My friend and I spent two months backpacking around Europe. I saw things I’d only read about in the encyclopedia! Yes, pre-Google, low tech, and full of wondrous things, people and places. I’d read about them, dreamed of seeing them, and was filled with awe upon seeing them. Thanks Pop for always telling me to “look it up.” Hard to quantify all the gifts a parent gives, but that’s been one of the best.
Another highlight was New York City with my college choir in the late 90’s. We rehearsed in the basement of a glorious cathedral to prepare for Carnegie Hall, walked in Soho in the rain, marveled at the trees in Central Park, visited museums. Again, places I’d only read about.
Haven’t traveled a whole lot since then, especially out of the country, but I’ve managed to move almost once a year in the past twenty. I hate moving, too. Tried hard to find a place to make my home, put down some roots. I think the wanderlust is too strong, though. I spent so many years in one place, it seems only fitting I should go to the other extreme, as I’ve done, upon reflection.
I probably have fewer possessions now than at any other time of my life. I’m about to sell the only home I’ve ever owned. And I want to leave my apartment on the interstate for a quieter place. The country and the town, instead of the city. I still wanna see and experience all the wonders of the light beyond the woods. But I prefer the country. It’s where I grew up. It’s where I feel at home; it’s who I am. Finally, it’s who I want to be.
So I’m throwin’ out the recipe for a happy life that was passed down to me. I’m learnin’ to improvise and make it up as I go. Same thing in the kitchen. I learned how to cook using recipes, so my ability to improvise in the kitchen is a little under practiced. Recently, however, I thrilled myself to pieces with the little number that follows. I looked in my pantry and used what I had. Hope you like it.
Bring to a boil:
1 small can purple hull peas
1 can rotel tomatoes
1 can water
5-8 meatballs, frozenBoil for 6 minutes.
Add one packet of boil-in-bag rice. Garnish with chopped red onion and cilantro.