Here Having Been There: Andrew Cushing ’12 revisits childhood trailer home
For the next four weeks, the Orient is featuring a selection of students’ essays about their homes, in conjunction with the “Here Having Been There” photo exhibit, opening April 8 in the basement of the Visual Arts Center.
Last summer, my brother and I began the process of tearing down our childhood home. It is a strange feeling to forever reduce your house to a pile of copper (to sell), metal and glass (to recycle), and wood (to burn). Slivers of guilt erupted each time I jettisoned armfuls of memory-infused popcorn ceiling, but a greater part of me relished the fact that my best-kept secret was disappearing from the landscape. After all, this home defined how I saw myself and how others categorized me growing up: as trailer trash.
Yet, it is really my only home. After my parents’ divorce, I found myself living in a metaphorical mobile home. My high school and college years included stays between several beds and couches, including one in this trailer (at the time home to my brother). Consequently, I was ripping out fiberglass insulation from the thin walls of my only true home with mixed emotions.
The more I delved into its innards, the angrier I grew at how cheaply it was constructed. Staples and glue affixed every piece of faux wood paneling and molding to studs with the dimensions of matchsticks. I could not shake the idea that the trailer’s worn linoleum flooring somehow reflected my family as equally cheap, flimsy and temporary.
I looked out across the fields where my father, brother and I had spent summers haying. My family’s 50 acres is the closest thing I have to a home. Here I learned tree identification and woodlot management. It was where my siblings and I raced to Mom after getting barbed wire stuck in our legs or concussions from sledding off barn roofs. It was where I contemplated life (as a 13-year-old knows it), my feet dangling in the gelid waters of our property’s moss-blanketed streams.
I could say that this trailer on a dirt road in rural New Hampshire taught me many of the values I appreciate in myself and in others. Home in the physical sense is not that powerful, though. No, it is my parents I wish to thank. My parents did the best with what they had, and gave me a humble resourcefulness that guides me through a world so unlike the one in which I grew up. My brother and I will finish razing the trailer this upcoming summer. By then, this image will be the only vestige of my childhood home. And I’m fine with that.
In memory of Norman Seagrave ’37
As a Bowdoin student I never expected to befriend an alumnus from the Class of 1937. For starters, I was focused on creating friendships with students from the Class of 2012. Then I left the McKeen Center one afternoon in the fall of 2009 with a name and phone number. An elderly couple wished for a Bowdoin student to come to their home and just…talk.
The first afternoon I visited Norman Seagrave and his wife, Mary, I awkwardly navigated the lobby and hallways of Thornton Oaks, perhaps postponing the initial interaction with a member of Bowdoin’s old guard. The retirement home felt hot. Women with walkers and men with canes greeted me with, what I thought, were curious glances.
I knocked on Norman’s door and waited for the hello. First impressions, despite their importance, are not my specialty. I shifted my feet and hoped first impressions were the Seagraves’ specialty. Mary opened the door and motioned me into their apartment. They sat me down, offered me drink and food, and immediately ushered me into their lives.