When I was a kid, I wanted to be a lot of things. I wanted to be a singer, like Sarah Vaughan, because of her versions of “Darn That Dream” and “Moonlight in Vermont.” I wanted to be a dancer, too, after I heard “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa for the first time. I also wanted to be an archaeologist. For a while, when I was a little older, I wanted to be an attorney, a marine biologist and a psychologist (not all three at the same time, although that’s a fun idea). I also had ideas about owning a farm large enough to house all of the rescued Cocker Spaniels that I planned on bringing home — all 100 of them. And I remember wanting to be a spy, the president and a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader (When I was five. No joke.). But what most people don’t know is that I had a little idea about being a truck driver. Yes, like a truck driver, sitting up high, white tee and jeans, sunglasses, a cowboy hat, CB and call name (Mine was “Big Mama.” Roger that.), 18 wheels and a bunch of gears, bouncing up and down in the seat of a big rig as it rumbled and growled down the highway, the landscape whizzing by, yanking on the horn, music loud, friends on the radio, taking it all in B.J. McKay-style, but without the chimpanzee, of course.
Yes, a solitary life spent on the road, just the music, my mind, the big hat, the shades and the terrain all seemed very romantic to me in my young, imaginative mind, indeed.
However, like many endeavors that I considered to be of value in my youth, I perceived discouragement: not prestigious enough, too long [to find results/achieve “success”] or boring, not enough money in it, ridiculous, too artsy, too fantastical or out-of-reach, too much of one thing or lacking in another. Granted, I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to become a spy, or what I had to do to become one; and we all know how long it’s taken any woman to still-not-hold high office in this country; and, although I love animals, my favorite job is not cleaning up poo, so the dog thing might not have worked out so well; and I now am certain that my much older self would discourage my younger self from entering the world of professional cheerleading (even though I still love to dance), as I don’t think that my annual winter gut and love of wine would have appreciated fitting into or adorning the requisite bits of cloth, aka “uniform,” nor the not-eating-much part, nor, you know, the weird objectification-of-women/relegation-to-the-sideline thing. I get that now.
So it is no wonder why I never mentioned my want to be a truck driver, even though I found it incredibly dreamy, because I suppose that I felt ashamed of it as not being much of any “goal,” that it “couldn’t earn much of a living” or garner much enthusiasm, knowing that it likely would have gone unsupported in the various environments that were part of my general upbringing. (And now, as an adult, I am aware that life on the road for women can be a bit sketchy, but that’s a matter for a different time. Anyway, let me dream for a bit, okay?). Besides, I didn’t and don’t know any truck drivers (well, I knew a guy once), and I’m sure it was and is romantic in notion only to be on the road all of the time, sleeping in the cab, driving a lot, thinking a lot, taking in the view, meeting all kinds of people … my head in the clouds, traveling, being my own boss, living a life untethered … and … “On the road again …”
Wait a second. (Thought crystalizationnnnn …) 10-9. Breaker, breaker. (Idea coming to fruiiiiitionnnnn …)
Perhaps this whole truck driver dream that I’ve secretly kept tucked away all of these years is no coincidence after all. Perhaps in my youth I sent out a cosmic, vibrational CB all-call to my future self to travel, only now finding a clear signal through and among all of the years of static. And the giant 18-wheeler of my dreams is instead a 29-feet-long Salem travel trailer with living room/dinette slide-out — luxury to a trucker! — and my journey isn’t a solitary one, but rather a journey with my beloved husband and daughter, my Life Passengers. Perhaps … this is what fate had in store.
Yep, loud-and-clear, people, we’re talkin’ epiphany here.
That’s a big 10-4, Big Mama.
Indeed, the stars have aligned as I was reminded just the other day about my want to be a truck driver — that Scot and I are about to be truck drivers of sorts, and quite satisfactorily — as I inserted the key that (un)locks the door to the travel trailer that we just acquired for our impending year of U.S. travel on the road with Luna.
I had just finished another daunting round of moving into our tiny house on wheels, trying to anticipate a year’s worth of living away from the standard, stationary four walls and their cubbies. Reduce, reduce, reduce. I descended the camper via its three metal drop-down stairs — our own red carpet, if you will. I turned to face the door, reaching up toward the entry, which sits higher than I from the ground, arm extended to find the notch within the keyhole, asserting the key with my hand to turn the lock. It was then, while looking up at our “rig,” that I remembered my silly, secret truck driver fantasy. It made me smile. I liked it a lot. It felt really good. “Free” came to mind. Happy, too. Joyful. Inspired. And funny.
Truck driver. Moi.
Did I mention that I like to drive trucks? Big ones at that? High off the ground? With heaps of towing capacity?
It occurred to me on a recent Sunday in late evening. As I stood on the top step of the camper, I breathed fresh, spring air that went to my head. The day had been warm, but it was becoming cooler, the sky turning cobalt blue, the breeze easy. For a moment, I imagined that we could be anywhere, which occurs to us a lot these days. My thoughts became clear about destination, that it is an open road, unending and bending, smelling of new, hopeful, present, challenging … and of my dreaming. (Clap, clap, clap!!!) It added a skip to my step as all of the scattered thoughts of late tumbled onto themselves, gleefully rolling in recognition that they had figured out something else, something helpful and reassuring on this path of (re)organization and direction, that things were (going to fall) in(to) place.
Lord knows I have needed it — the clarity that is.
However, like most dreaming, reality sets in and and focuses on the tasks at hand. For us, there is a familiar story of the merging of my families over the last five years, as well as the co-mingling of all things relevant, as a result of many life changes and paths chosen. There are so many stories to tell about the coming together, the being together, and now beginnings of the leave-taking, the highs, the lows, the joys, sorrows and victories … and the stuff. That conversation — on communal living and its fabric — also will be for another time. What is important to note here is the disassembly of old life and repackaging into new as it pertains to structure literally. We’ve done a lot of it, this moving and reorganizing, as helpers, caregivers and as soul-seekers. Pack, unpack, repack. But purge has come to shove. I think I can speak for us all when I admit that we are tired of it. We want the new life to start now, but there is work to be done in the departments of sorting and redistribution and some other business-y things. The contents of multiple homes merged many times into one seem to keep multiplying in the form of tchotchkes, and I’m not sure that Goodwill is going to have any more of it, while Craigslist shoppers seem to be on to us. We are old news, and it is old news to us, too. Perhaps I should consider a yard sale.
For my mother, with whom we’ve shared space all of these years, there is a new life with a new beau, an existing home to sell and a new home to enter, a different structure in a different setting with different things, with and without some of her own things that once helped identify her, now to be mixed and mingled again somewhere else, with someone else. Living in two worlds takes a lot of mental energy. And boxes.
Perhaps she’d be a good truck driver.
As for us and this cute little idea of tiny living for a year? Well, fantasy turned to reality the day we picked up our “rig.” It was a cold and drizzly day. Our destination was two hours south of where we live. Scot was not feeling well. It was beginning to be a long week already en route to the “RV World.” Our salesman-of-the-year, Nick, came out to greet us at the truck. We looked at a few things, talked about more, and then he asked, “Do you have a break controller?”
Scot and I looked at each other and then we all looked in the truck. Nope, we did not have a break-controller.
It was at this point when I realized that I really didn’t have any idea what I was doing.
Then I saw the nutcracker — I mean the tow hitch. It comes with a giant crowbar/bottle-opener-looking tool. Holy crap, there are about fifty ways to crush your knuckles hitching and unhitching the trailer alone. Then there are water hoses, holes, valves and tanks; propane tanks and electrical converters; counterweight considerations; and so, so, so much more. And we are going to tow this thing? For a year? Are we out of our minds? Am I sure that I want to be a real truck driver?
In the parlance of our times, the shit just got real.
So there’s that.
Also, I’m having trouble with kitchen wares. Clothes, bedding, entertainment, pantry? No problem. We’ve been living pretty thinly for many years now, in part to not spend, but also because we simply have wanted to live with less. But the kitchen creates a few problems for me and our tiny house on wheels: size, storage, quality, quantity and weight. I cook a lot. I don’t have a lot of gadgets, but those that I use are top-notch and serve many purposes. I cook out of want and necessity. I use a lot of glass and metal, and try not to use much plastic. I avoid Styrofoam at all costs. A year in a roving kitchen is a challenging thing to consider, but I am open to new ways of being with food. There is creativity in living lightly.
Another consideration for us is what we really don’t want anymore among the things that remain: a chair and ottoman, a couple of lamps, a stereo system, a few more things. Even if we think we are going to set up residence somewhere in the U.S. after our roadtrip, we don’t want any of it anymore, like, more than ever. We would rather just start anew, if we do at all. I am tired of off-loading (Have I mentioned this already?). But care and consideration go into everything that we do; extricating ourselves from possessions is no different. A little more time is needed. Still. I have yet to process my paintings.
Finally, we, too, are living in limbo. The greatest challenge for me currently is the living in between the large, in-the-process-of-being-vacated house and packing the 29-ish-feet-long travel trailer for lighter living, while corralling the things we will not need now or possibly ever again. There is a quote I keep on my phone that reads, “When preparing to travel, lay out all of your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” Good travelers know this by heart, but most of those travelers, at least the ones that I know and live by that rule (including me), aren’t traveling by camper-van for a year and dispossessing themselves of all that they own. I am not saying that I am unable to live this way in a travel trailer for year. What I am saying is that I just have not figured out how to do that yet. I may be able to remove half of what I load into the camper, and I may want to take twice the money, but I surely do not want to buy anymore stuff.
I think there is another saying: Keep it simple, stupid.
I bet real truck drivers have already thought about all of this stuff. They’ve been keeping it simple as a rule. From what I know, a truck driver hauls what little she owns. That is probably enough for her. With so little to consider among material things, the mind becomes freer to embrace an open road, a bigger sky, a larger dream, a wider scope and more global citizenry.
But what do I know? Not much, yet. I still am no good at backing-in any trailer attached to a truck.
That’s an affirmative, Big Mama.
In the meantime, my dreams are coming true. I just might be a trucker. I’m definitely going to be traveling. I’m going to do it with people I love. And we’re going to be talking about it. I’m going to continue to learn what I am capable of: What can I or do I have to tow or haul? How much should we or need to tow or haul? What is necessary, what is not? Is all of this dreaming business what it’s cracked up to be? Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice just sets us up for more lessons, more awareness, more knowledge, more wisdom. It makes us wider and more open to the ideas and potentials about ourselves and others.
I have a lot of practicing to do.
With that, I would like to put on my trucker hat now and assume my domestic goddess role in a size smaller than that to which I am accustomed, so that I may attempt to whittle down the contents of the rig, to take out half of what I have deemed necessary, because none of us really needs all that we think that we need. It’s not much fun to try to predict the future. That’s why dreaming is fun. It’s an activity that is done in the present, and you are acting as the real you. It is a hopeful activity. If we put our dreaming out in the world by simply wishing it to be true, then it is quite possible that it will happen on the very wish alone — never knowing when or how it might manifest itself — and that it might be all that is needed. That, with a little faith, hope and love. Seems to have worked for me.
Intriguing, heartwarming and such fun to read. I’m Ready for the next chapter please!