• Contributing Author

Christmas in a Trailer Park

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Alice… what a cliché she thought. Fairy tales have happy endings, don’t they? For Alice Keaton, future resident of the “Happy Trails Mobile Home Park,” she certainly couldn’t define her current dilemma as a fairy tale. Recently losing her mother to cancer, not only left her alone but also left her without a home again. It had been a long three-year uphill battle for her mother, who four years before she found out she had cancer, took out a reverse mortgage to help with repairs that the old house desperately needed. After her funeral, the bank took possession of the house and property and Alice had until the end of the month to move out. The Christmas holiday season had just begun.

Alice’s father left when Alice was only two and disappeared from their lives, leaving her mother with a toddler and a 100-year-old house in dire need of repair. Over the years it only got worse for them. No child support came in and her mother did not have money for an attorney, so they never did divorce. She couldn’t have served him with papers anyway if he didn’t want to be found.

Alice and Todd, her fiancé of over 3 years, moved in together in the last year of their engagement until one day he fell in love with someone else at work and packed up and moved out. Soon after he left, Alice found out she was pregnant with Todd’s baby. He said he would not be around to help her, and she should consider an abortion. But she couldn’t bring herself to agree to such a cruel act, and so nine months later, Jeffrey was born. The full-term baby was born with a severe club foot and physical therapy was recommended. But his foot was too badly distorted, and down the road, the doctors all suggested surgery would be his best option. Moving in with her mother was best for all three of them at that time in her life. She quit her job to care for her mother and her newborn baby. Jeffrey was eight years old when Alice got the letter from an attorney, telling her she had inherited property from her long-lost father: a 1957 single-wide trailer in a West Virginia trailer park.

Jeffrey was eight years old when Alice got the letter from an attorney, telling her she had inherited property from her long lost father: a 1957 single-wide trailer in a West Virginia trailer park.

But before she could settle into her new residence, Alice had to schedule her son’s surgery. Jeffrey’s Club Foot was not responding to physical therapy and getting more painful for him each year of his life. Alice had home-schooled him since kindergarten. Jeffrey wanted to go to public school now and Alice had to get this all done before next year when he would be starting second grade. Moving into a 1957 single-wide mobile home in a run-down trailer park seemed like the best choice for them now. Alice had to vacate her mother’s house soon and make her way down to West Virginia and a new beginning.

The old mobile home had never been mobile and had sat on a slab of weather-beaten concrete in the trailer park since it had opened in 1958. She wondered if her father had ever lived anywhere else. She had always thought that he lived the high life and never once thought about his daughter and providing for her over the years. It seemed to Alice now, that her father was a bit of a loner and maybe thought he couldn’t cope with the responsibility of being a father or a husband. But for all these years, he did think of them… of her, and when he died, made sure he left his only daughter, all his worldly possessions after his death. She wondered how he had died and if he had been happy. But he was like a stranger to her and every thought of him was empty and distant.

She decided she would leave for West Virginia by the end of the week and had the name of a hospital there where arrangements could be made for her son’s surgery. This would be a fresh start for the two of them. For the first time in a long while, Alice felt secure. The old trailer was paid in full and her father had made arrangements to pay the lot rent ahead for a full two years. All she had to do was pack their bags and hit the road. It was a 600-mile trip and the old car she inherited from her mother’s estate would at least get her that far she hoped. She had entrusted her mother’s furniture and household items to an auction house that would arrange for a sale and pay her a percentage of the sales as soon as possible. She prayed that it would be enough to get what they needed and help pay for Jeffrey’s surgery. Christmas was coming soon, and Alice knew that there would not be enough money to buy gifts, so she would try to find a job that would help them get back on their feet. The problem was childcare. How would she find someone willing to take care of her son while she was working? All of this could be decided once the two of them moved in.

The car had managed to get them to their destination without a problem and the gas budget cut into her grocery money so she would need to sign up at the local food pantry as soon as they settled in. When she pulled into the trailer park entrance, her heart sank. It was worse than she had imagined and when she arrived at the lot where her father’s trailer sat, she nearly cried. It was so very old and in need of lots of repairs to be habitable, and it was winter in West Virginia. She eased the old car into the small space of the carport and turned the engine off. Jeffrey, who had been asleep in the back seat, woke up when she opened the back door. She helped him out of the seatbelt and they both stood there looking at their new home.

“It’s pretty cool mom,” said Jeffrey.

Alice managed half a smile and shook her head in agreement. She was exhausted from the ride and anxious to see what was on the other side of the only door to the structure. When she turned the key and swung the door opened, she noticed that the furnishings inside were sparse and older than the trailer itself. Everything was covered in dust and the small refrigerator stood open and empty. The kitchen table was the first thing they saw when they stepped up into the tiny room. Two chairs sat tucked underneath and the old stove nearby was missing the oven’s door.

Alice cleaned off a place on the old sofa for Jeffrey’s blanket and pillow and got him settled before returning to the car to retrieve their meager belongings. She had stopped to pick up a few things they would need for breakfast and lunch the following day and loaded the bags onto the table. She closed the refrigerator and plugged it back in and it hummed to life. She put the cold items away and left the other food in the bags until she had a chance to clean a place in the cupboards in the morning. She piled the suitcases onto a small table next to the sofa; the other items would wait until tomorrow, too.

Alice went into one of the two small bedrooms and was relieved to see that there were beds and night stands. The one bathroom was tiny, but someone had kept it reasonably clean, except for the old tile floor that was beyond repair. She cleaned the room and the shower area, so they could both take showers in the morning. She hung towels and wash-cloths on the towel racks and put soap in the soap dishes, then she threw a blanket over the bed in the larger of the two bedrooms and got ready for bed.

In the morning, the place looked a lot less grim than when they arrived last night. After a good cleaning, it may actually be very cozy. She did feel safe being so close to her new neighbors. While Jeffrey slept in, Alice went outside to see what kind of outdoor living space they would have and was not surprised to see that the trailers were back to back and the only yard space was a small grassy area in the front just off the carport. She wandered around to the other side of the trailer and ran smack into a very large man carrying a bag of groceries from his truck. The bag he was carrying fell to the ground and the contents spilled out all over between them.

In the morning, the place looked a lot less grim than when they arrived ... After a good cleaning, it may actually be very cozy.

“Oh no, I’m so sorry, Alice said, “I was just trying to see where my property line was and...”

“Forget it, no damage.” I didn’t have anything breakable this trip,” said the stranger. “Jack Taylor,” he continued... “and you are?”

“Oh, uh, Alice Keaton, I just moved in last night,” she said.

“Oh, then you must be Carl’s daughter,” he stated.

“Funny you and I never met, I stay here in my trailer whenever I have a contract in town; I’m a builder. Not many places to rent here, so I had to buy this place a few years ago,” he continued.

“So, you knew him then, what was he like?” she asked.

“I’m confused,” he said, “you didn’t know him?”

“Not since I was two,” she replied.

“Sorry, I didn’t know,” he replied.

Over the next few weeks, Jack and Alice started a routine of spending time with each other on the small patch of grass where two lawn chairs had been added. She received a good sum of money from the auction of her mother’s things, which allowed her to buy what they needed and get the ball rolling on Jeffrey’s surgery. The only niche was that the nearest hospital was about 54 miles away, so she would need to find a place to stay while he was in the hospital.

Even though it was comfortable and finally clean, Alice still worried about Christmas. There wasn’t enough money for gifts or even a Christmas tree. As she made preparation for their trip to the hospital, she felt helpless. Jack had volunteered to help her out with things that needed fixing, but she was reluctant to take advantage. She did leave a key with him in case something happened while she and Jeffrey were away. She trusted him and knew all would be well with him as her neighbor. Over the last few weeks, she had made many new friends in the complex. They all seemed to love living there. But there were not very many children Jeffrey’s age for him to play with. Jack would come over and they would all play a few games of Monopoly together on the weekends. But their new home was in need of so many repairs, and with the holidays coming, there would be no funds for any of that, either.

The day they left for the hospital, Alice packed a few things for their trip and told Jack they were leaving. It was less than a week before Christmas and Jack noticed that Alice didn’t even have a Christmas tree. He promised to keep a close eye on her place and for her not to worry and he would see her when she got back.

The surgery went well, but without much improvement to Jeffrey’s mobility. Alice was depressed and dreaded the return trip home. Jeffrey had been talking about Christmas the whole trip there and home. How was she going to tell him that there would be no Christmas this year? Christmas was a day away and Alice dreaded coming home to an empty trailer and no signs of the holidays to make her son happy. They pulled into the complex about 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Jack’s trailer was dark, and his truck was gone. She had hoped he would be there to talk to. She needed someone who understood and someone who liked her son and would help her explain to him about the lack of Christmas cheer this year. He was only eight, and it was going to be hard on him.”

Christmas was a day away and Alice dreaded coming home to an empty trailer and no signs of the holidays to make her son happy.

She pulled into the carport of their mobile home and the place was dark. Jeffrey had fallen asleep again on the ride home. She reluctantly woke him up and they headed for the door. It wasn’t locked and panic set in. She was about to back out and get out of there when her lights came on inside. It was then that she saw the most wonderful sight she had ever seen: a big, beautiful, fully decorated real Christmas tree, standing in the far corner of the living room. But more than that, there were dozens of presents under the tree and the inside of the trailer had been freshly painted. New curtains hung on the windows and new linens were on the table. Something wonderful was cooking on the old stove, which now had a new oven door. New area rugs covered the old worn floors and fresh covers were on all the living room furniture.

Tears streamed down her face when she saw Jack standing in her kitchen, stirring a pot of chili in front of a beautiful table with pretty Christmas dishes set for three on a brand-new tablecloth. Jack stood there in an apron, holding a spoon in one hand and a salt shaker in the other. He turned and smiled at them both.

“Merry Christmas,” he said… “you’re a bit late, but I kept the chili warm. Come and eat and then we all have to get to bed… Santa left gifts to open in the morning and I can’t wait to see what he brought!”

A big smile came on Jeffrey’s face and tears welled up in Alice’s eyes again.

“Hey, don’t just stand there like a couple of lumps” said Jack, “sit down and get ready for the best chili this side of West Virginia!”

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