I grew up in affluent Fairfield County, CT. We were not one of the very wealthy families in the IBM town, but we certainly never lacked for anything. My first experience of LACK wasn’t until after I’d moved out of my family’s home at a pretty early age.
There were times in my life (I’m 54 now as I write this) when I had really lucrative jobs, nice cars, nice places to live and plenty of money in the bank. And then there were the really LEAN times. The LEAN times were when I first started out, and then again after a few decades of doing well I found myself back in the pooooooor times.
Have you ever been poor? I mean poverty level poor? Many of my old friends have had some phases in life where they weren’t doing so well, but I’m not sure if they ever relied on boxed mac and cheese for sustenance and burned old furniture in the fireplace to keep warm in the winter. It’s a whole different experience. I follow the Facebook page for my old home town and have to laugh sometimes. I read a thread not long ago about a woman who takes her kids on drive throughs of poor communities in Hartford just to show her kids that there are people out there in the world who would appreciate all that they have, to show them how the other half lives.
When we first moved to North Carolina we were coming through some lean times and had enough saved for the move and all, but no real PLAN on what we were going to do when we got here. We had faith, though, and felt like the move would be the right thing for us. And it was. We were absolutely right. But we had a lot to overcome when we got here.
We were looking for a HOME and chose to look in Gastonia, back in 2014. I saw an ad for a rent to own mobile home and decided we should look at it. I’d been in a mobile home once or twice before but wasn’t really familiar with them, other than watching My Name is Earl. I had lots of preconceived notions but the idea of renting to OWN something, ANYTHING was kind of intriguing. So we looked. And I said to Marty, “I can’t do it. I can’t be a trailer person. I can’t live in that.” My pride was still intact at that point. What I didn’t realize is that God had blessings attached to that humble little trailer I was rejecting. So God sent me to live in a HOUSE…. in the ‘hood. For a year. And he let us struggle. He took us back to the mac and cheese days. He let us wonder how we were going to keep the lights on. Not gonna lie, it was one uncomfortable year.
When the lease was up I started looking again, and through a friend was led to a different trailer park. This one in Kings Mountain. The trailer was adorable. The park was quiet. And guess who owned it? The same guy who owned the park we looked at a year earlier. God was giving us another chance and I was sufficiently humbled enough to try it.
There are different kinds of folks who wind up in trailer parks. Older people who are retired or close to it who want to downsize. Trailer trash (yes, they exist). People starting out or starting over who want to OWN SOMETHING but won’t qualify for traditional financing and can’t afford a mortgage payment on a house. Some of those folks stay for five or six years, get on their feet and move on. Others just stay and are content to save all that money for later. I guess that’s us. We’re pretty happy here. The mobile home has been completely gutted and renovated to be exactly the way I want it. My neighbors are amazing – with the exception of like ONE neighbor who has a gene puddle instead of a gene pool but that’s another story. We own the home and just pay a couple hundred bucks lot rent, so we don’t have to worry about money. Best of all, Marty and I both work for the property management company who owns this place and fifteen other similar communities so we are all set here. Like I said, God had blessings for us, I was just too prideful to accept them earlier.
We recently were contacted by someone else in our community who paid off their home about a year ago. She wanted to know if the company would buy it back. She and her partner found a house in Lincolnton they got a mortgage on. I went over and looked at the home and negotiated a price, wrote her a check and got the keys just today. Mobile homes are “Titled” through the DMV here so it’s an easy transaction. Property taxes are like $50 a year. She and her partner wanted me to pass along their thanks to the owner of the company and the staff because they’d enjoyed their time here. They loved their little trailer. It was their first home in NC after moving out of VA for a fresh start. The owner had taken a chance on them and they were appreciative of it. It was nice not to be “blessed out” for a change.
She reminded me of when we first came here – with nothing, and got that chance to start over. I don’t think I’d trade any of the experiences we’ve had, even the LEAN times for anything in the world. I’ve gotten a chance to really get into the trenches with people and I don’t think I’d have had that chance staying up in CT, living where I grew up where you can barely SEE your nearest neighbor.
My life has been immeasurably enriched by meeting people I’d never have thought to meet before. Folks I would have made fun of or looked down on before. I’m actually kind of embarrassed to admit that, but there it is. Today I understand why we go through the frustration of the property management game. Today, I feel like ol’ George Bailey – the richest person in town.