Trailer Memories

Even a trailer classroom can be loved.

Time is beginning to narrow, and the date is finally set: Within the week I will be moving from my trailer to a brand-new classroom inside the building. I am surrounded by boxes of books, papers, folders; by posters; by the miscellaneous office supplies every teacher should have, even if she doesn’t know why.

It seems so empty now, reminiscent of the day I first stepped onto school grounds, up the rickety wooden stairs, and into the darkness of the four walls which would be my home for the next year-and-a-half. I spent the first year of my teaching career filling space, covering the brown striped walls on cream, sidestepping the large splotch on the purple-flecked carpet, wishing there were more than two ways to situate the desks.

Now I sit in my rolling chair, hands folded on my lap. The memories like a movie montage slip through my mind, and I remember:

Spring, and going over a group assignment, and a bird flies in through the open door. It swoops from one end of the trailer to the other, seeming to forget the way it came in.

“Duck!” scream several of the students, covering their heads with literature books.

“I think,” I shout over the confusion, “we should be thankful it’s a nice day outside.”

We flee, the powerless English teacher and her 24 eleventh graders, to the strip of asphalt and compare Longfellow’s poetry to Tennyson’s in the sun.

In the weeks before summer, loud footsteps can be heard above our heads. “Is there someone up there?” someone asks. “A raccoon maybe?”

“A pretty big raccoon,” I say grimly and step outside. A boy in too-big jeans and a T-shirt is wandering around on my roof. “What do you think you’re doing?” I exclaim.

“My hacky-sack …”

“Not in my middle of my class! Good Lord, we thought there were raccoons!”

In the fall, new faces widen eyes when a loud thump is heard at one of the windows. Interrupted in the midst of a lecture, I peer out the window and see nothing.

“A bird flew into the window,” says the boy sitting closest to it.

Several of the girls squeal, and I wonder what it is with me, the trailer, and birds. “Is it okay?” I ask cautiously.

“Oh, yeah, it got right back up and flew away,” he replies.

After class, as the students are filing out, I hear a freshmen-like commotion. “He lied, he lied!” the girls are screaming, and one of them scrambles back into the trailer. “Ms. Reeder, the bird is dead! It’s outside on the ground, and it’s dead!”

Is it only nine o’clock? I think wearily as I peek out the door and see the little gray sparrow in classic play-dead position: On its back, wings spread, claws motionless in the air. The rest of the day, my students enter with the same words on their lips. “Ms. Reeder, did you know there’s a …”

“Yes! I know!”

The dawn of winter, and there is a man painting my trailer when I arrive. I figure the administration must be sprucing up the campus and am pleased with the new coat the outside walls receive. Then the security people show up.

“Did you see the graffiti?” they ask.

“No,” I reply, and think how stupid I can be. “Was it specific to me?”

They exchange a glance. “Better you didn’t see it.”

After they leave, I put my head in my hands and cry. The trailer is warm and hugs me close as I wait for the tears to pass.

“It’s hot!” the students shout, so we open the windows and turn off the heat.

“Can we put up our visuals?” the students ask, so we staple their posters to the walls.

“There’s a hole in the wall!” the students cry, so we staple construction paper over it.

(I feel the fingers of a migraine in my eyes, so I lock the door, turn off the lights, and curl up in the corner for the 15 minutes until my next class. No one will bother me here.)

I sit in my rolling chair, hands folded on my lap, and think we will write odes to the trailer, my students and I, and leave them here, tacked to the bulletin board, to remind those who follow that this space was loved for its staple-filled walls and stained carpet, sticky door and broken blinds and holes.

This space was loved, and though we turn off the lights and close the door, it holds our memory close and remembers us when we are gone.

Article © 2003 by Jenn Reeder