I let my brother back up my truck and trailer last night.
No, wait – that’s not quite right: I actually asked my brother to back up my trailer last night, while I stood by and watched. It was a moment a long time in the making.
This story begins in the year 1998.
This story begins in the year 2002.
This story begins in the year 2007.
Or maybe this story begins now.
Truth be told, I don’t know when this story begins, but it might have been any of those years. Or all of them. But let’s pop into 2007 for a quick look, and a little background.
I was a divorced mother, with two boys. One was 5 years old, the other 10. But that’s not all I was! Oh no. I was fierce. I was independent. I was anything and everything – all the things – and if I wasn’t already something, I could learn to be that thing without too much trouble at all.
Growing up in the ’80s, our family camped a lot. I had a huge love for the outdoors, and a love for the time together as a family while camping in the outdoors. Even though I was single in 2007, I was not about to let my boys miss this experience. It meant a lot to me, and quite possibly even more to them.
First, I bought a truck. A 2004 extended cab Chevy Silverado. Black. Short box. 60,000 kms. It was hard on gas, and hard on my pocketbook – those monthly payments weren’t easy to make, but I made them.
Then, I bought a camperette for $300 – a tiny camper, to sit on the back of the truck bed. When I went to purchase it, it was propped up on sawhorses in an overgrown field; no jacks. I had to find four guys willing to come with me to help me lift it onto my truck, and we tied it down with straps.
Next, a small utility trailer for behind the truck. An aluminum fishing boat was next, and a rack on that trailer to hold the boat and related gear. I needed to learn to muscle the boat up onto the rack all by myself. I asked my neighbour and his friend to watch while I loaded it for the first time in case it fell on me, but I wouldn’t let them help. What if there was no one up at the lake and I had to do it myself then? Would I just leave the boat behind? No, that wouldn’t do. I would have to do it myself. I could do it myself! I really could. (And I did!)
Eventually I mounted three used jacks on the camperette, so I could load it and unload from the truck all by myself. (Yeah, that was a bit tippy, I highly recommend four.)
Ultimately I learned some good lessons over the next couple of years.
Joining our local chapter of Search and Rescue helped me learn more about outdoor survival. I bought a 2-way radio, flares, bear bangers and bear spray. Packed a survival bag and was prepared to be lost in the woods in the rain for up to three days, safely. Stuffed it all in the truck, along with a few emergency beer – there’s no way I was going to venture out into the woods with my boys, unless I was fully prepared to protect them, and maybe enjoy myself along the way.
I learned that when my trailer and boat were hooked up behind the truck, I couldn’t open the door to the camperette – and that if I was heading south of the US border that the border guards wouldn’t care if it was hard to do. One asked me to remove the boat and trailer, to allow him to enter the camperette. He confiscated my canned dog food (meat, you know – this was the era of Mad Cow disease) and then walked away leaving me and the boys to re-load it all in the sun-baked parking lot at the border crossing.
I learned to never unhook the trailer while parked on an incline. I imagine I must have looked a sight, tears streaming down my face that day, while I was digging in my heels, skidding, holding the trailer for dear life to stop it from rolling all the way down the hill.
I learned to pack a trailer correctly, to balance the weight at the front, so the tongue wouldn’t spring into the air as soon as I unhooked (ripping into my lowered tailgate again) .
My kids learned how to catch fish. How to clean them. How to cook a steak over the campfire, how to make jello in the trees, campfire pies, and perfectly toasted marshmallows. They learned to identify edible berries, and how you could eat rosehips to avoid scurvy and use witches’ hair for tea.
But here is the key to this story, and why it matters now: The hardest part of all was learning how to back up that motherfucking trailer.
I practised, and I struggled, and I fought with the thing over and over and over and over, until I could back it up, perfectly.
Perfectly, that is, unless someone was watching. I couldn’t EVER back up that goddamned thing when there were people watching. Why not? Performance anxiety, I guess. Didn’t help that most of the time those who were watching were male, and full of helpful tips:
“Use your mirrors!”
“Put your hand on the bottom of your steering wheel and then move it the direction you want the trailer to go!”
“Turn the wheel! Turn turn turn!”
But the one that got to me the most was this:
“Want me to just jump in and back that up for you?”
I met my husband, Jeff, in 2010 and it was one of the first lessons he learned: Never, ever, EVER, ever, offer to back up Laurena’s trailer.
I am a strong, independent, CAPABLE woman and I can do anything I want to do. So fuck off, I will back up my own trailer, thank-you-very-much. I told Jeff the story of how upset I was on my family camping trip the year prior, with my immediate family, when my brother offered to back up the trailer for me (since I was having so much trouble doing it on my own). Back then, I finally, tearfully, told my brother to stop watching me so I could do it alone, and I’ve felt bad about it since.
Last night – now more than 10 years later – I arrived solo in my truck and trailer (now upgraded to a small travel trailer) at my brother’s property, where I am staying for a week. I pulled into the yard, stopped the truck and got out to explore where my brother might want me to park it.
“You could just back it in here,” he said, gesturing at the flat spot next to the house. And I thought about it. And then I held out the keys toward him, and I said:
“Would you mind doing it for me?”
He paused briefly, then nodded. He took my keys and got into the truck.
“Holy, you’ve got 300 thousand kilometres on this thing now,” he said.
Yes. That’s a lot of miles under my belt. And I must say – I’ve learned a few important things along the way.