Of all the families we expected to leave, we never expected this one to be going. Corde made friends with two incredibly sweet sisters that are only around on weekends, since that’s when they visit with their dad. They came to the door yesterday and said they had to say good-bye. Their dad had the whole house packed up and the U-Haul was there in the driveway. They’d try and visit when they could, but they wanted their friends to know they wouldn’t be around much. They were going to live with their uncle.
Corde was really upset about this. Of all the kids in the neighborhood, those were the girls she liked the most. They were always friendly, kind, and very polite. They were respectful to everyone around them. Corde always felt comfortable around them, like she could be herself. They never had a problem when Beekee or Sander wanted to tag along in their play. They didn’t even make fun of Beekee because he’s taken to almost exclusively wearing girl clothes. They were the most accepting people she knew.
It’s going to be hard for her. Just Saturday we saw another family packing up in a U-Haul down the end of the street. We didn’t know them and I don’t think they had kids Corde knows, but it’s a shocking reminder of how fast things change in a trailer park, at least in this one. The rules are pretty strict statewide. All it takes is being three days late on rent and management can evict you. The first day you’re late they stick a three-day notice on your door informing you that you need to vacate. If you don’t, they haul you to court and you’ve got all of a week, maybe two before the judge orders you out. This isn’t at all like it is back home where eviction could take months to process.
We’re seeing the first families go running from this month’s round of notices. It looks like there are a number that are trying to get out before the evictions hit. Management is usually pretty good about it. They give you a six-day grace period after rent is due, that way for families like ours, where child support doesn’t hit until the third of the month, we can get our rent in with no late fees. Then they’ll offer another extension if you’re late on rent but were able to make a partial payment. Six days after that, which is about mid-month they go through and give everyone a reminder of their balance, exactly what we received about our water bill. It seems like everyone has been getting that little note on their door at the beginning of each month after rent is considered late. Apparently a lot of families have gotten notification that they’re behind mid-month too.
I don’t know why it is, but it seems everyone’s got it hard right now. We’re able to make it work, but a lot of families aren’t. I’m going to go light on my judgment here because, well, I really don’t want to be knocking anyone and I have no idea who reads this, but I can’t say it’s all because of bad luck. I know a couple families who are tight on money, but have a bad habit of splurging when they get money in, even though it’ll put them behind on bills. We occasionally do that too, but we’re learning to live lean. I know a couple of families who aren’t able to pay their rent after big-ticket purchases. This is why we don’t have a car. Sure, we could find the money to buy one, or at least put a down-payment on one, but we’d probably fall shy on rent and bills that month, and between having a car and having a home, I’d rather the roof over my head. I can walk to the grocery store if necessary, but homelessness is something I never want to do again, even though we were in a shelter and not out on the street. Doing it once is incentive enough to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Maybe other families don’t feel the same.
Beekee just kind of rolls with all of this. These families don’t pay their bills, they get kicked out, and in his mind it’s probably their own fault. He sees how hard we always try to make sure everything is covered and seems to think it’s a no-brainer. When families can’t afford their bills for outside reasons they generally are pretty open and honest about it. Someone lost a job or something happened that made it impossible for them to keep up. He thinks “someone” should help those people, but he’s got no sympathy for the people who have no reason for it. His answer is, “Well, they should have paid their bills! That’s so stupid.”
It’s not as easy on Corde. She doesn’t view her friends as “replaceable” the way Beekee does. To Beekee one friend is just as good as another. He doesn’t make close bonds and more often than not prefers to play by himself, or as he’s taken to doing with the other kids, kind of playing together. He’ll have his toys in his spot, his friend will have the same, and only occasionally do their two games cross paths, and only when it’s mutually agreeable to do so. My favorite of his games is when he plays things like pirates, assassins, or super heroes. He and his friend both play on their own, except when they come together for epic battles and great adventures. Once that’s over they go their separate ways until they need the other’s help again, or until war breaks out between the two of them.
Corde wants to have more regular friends. She probably wouldn’t care so much if these kids leave if she knew they’d be replaced with a new supply of friends, preferably better than the last. She really enjoys having other kids around to play with, but not just any friends. She wants to be able to put together a club or a game that they can go back to day after day. She wants to share her interests with her friends and have her friends share their interests with her. We could really benefit with being able to get Corde to a homeschool or unschool group, since those would be kids with at least one more thing in common. At least they wouldn’t be a bunch of boy-crazy girls obsessed with makeup and looking grown up as her current friends do. She much prefers the boys next door because they don’t care about all of that. She even takes offence when the other kids call the older one her boyfriend because she knows they’re just really good friends. The younger one is actually closer to being her best friend these days because they get along so well. Funny how the younger one is like her best friend and the older one is Beekee’s best friend. It’s just further proof that peer group and age have nothing to do with friendship, which is good. If it were all about peer group and age, Oz and I would never have gotten together! He’s six years younger than me!
But I understand where Corde’s coming from. She wants to have good friends that she can rely on. So many people have come and gone in her life that it’s hard to have anything to hold on to. I had to remind her not to count her friends as gone before they leave. Nothing is set in stone until they’ve got the U-Haul in their driveway and they’re packing up to leave. We don’t know which of her friends’ families are going to be able to work it out and stay a little longer. It looks like the next door neighbors are going to be sticking around because it seems like they’ve found a way to work it all out. I don’t know about Maddy and Mackenzie, but we’ll see. So far I’ve heard no word of them leaving.
After all of this Corde asked me, “Mom, can we just pack everything up and go live in an RV? Then I’ll never have to worry about losing friends because I’ll make them wherever I go and we can visit any time we like. Maybe I can even visit Daddy.” Hmm… That ones a tough one. I’ll admit, I’d love to pack it all up and live on the road like modern-day Gypsies, but it’s not a reality for us. Other families have the luxury of selling their home to buy an RV but we don’t have the money for that kind of investment. There’s also no way to be sure living on the road will mean she can visit her dad. I’m not sure how serious he is about seeing her.
Hopefully this will all work out. Oz will get a great new job and we’ll be able to get a car. There’s an unschooling group in the city, and while that’s an hour away, I think it would be worth it for the kids to get to know other kids like them. There’s a few homeschooling groups in town too and I’d be happy to see them make some friends there too. It might give them more of a sense of stability than being rooted down to one place ever could, especially in a place where people come and go so frequently.
For now we’re just going to hold on and see what happens. The first family has already gone and we’re not sure what will happen when the rest of them start to follow, if any of them do. All I can do is be there for Corde, remind her that she’ll make new friends and that we’ll do our best to stay in touch with the friends she has now. Beyond that I can’t do much until I know what’s happening with all of it. I hate those moments of “wait and see”, but for now that’s all we can do.