Trailer Park Dinners

by: Amanda Riggle

featured in the 2018 Art Edition

Tonight I made a tater tot casserole

I’ve never, in my life, eaten one before

But I’ve seen recipes for it

It reminded me of when we were in our twenties

And we would try to recreate trailer park dinners

Because we grew up in a trailer park together

And it just seemed like fun

And like what you did when you were raising a kid

In low-income housing

I missed you tonight

So this casserole was an ode

To those days and nights together

The only difference was it being plant-based

Vegan

You still would have liked it

We’ve seen enough cruelty in our life

To try a different way of living

One that promotes harmony and ease

You have a second son

I’ve never met him

But he looks so much like you

From your pictures

And so much like your first son

I remember when I first met him when he was three

We hadn’t seen each other in years

Not since we were runaways

I was fourteen then

And you were sixteen

I got caught the first night and you got away

Only to be sent to juvie

Only to meet the boy that would be your second-son’s father

Many years later

He turned out to be a deadbeat

But you couldn’t have known that at the time

What did we know of love

What did we know of responsibility

We were the rejects of capitol

Living with no income

With parents high or gone

A burden to the system

Schools, social workers, grandparents, neighbors –

We bothered the fuck out of them all

Because we were angry

We were so young

And unloved

All we knew was fury

And all the harshness that this world has to offer

But we’ve survived

We’ve become better people than those who begot us

And your sons are loved

I know

Even the one I haven’t met

And I’m sure they’d also enjoy the tatter tot casserole

Even if it’s vegan

Even if they don’t know the taste of cruelty

We’re now closer to forty than thirty

It’s strange how time moves

And I still feel like the same girl that lost you

Her best friend, as a teen

I still carry the scars my parents left upon my body

And sometimes they still seem fresh

Even though time makes them so far away

I’m a teacher now

My kids sometimes still think I’m in my twenties

But that boat has long sailed

And you still look like you did when you were sixteen

We’ve both just got a few gray hairs now

A few more wrinkles

But I don’t think we’re different inside

Being an adult is pretending you know what you’re doing

And balancing being able to feed yourself

And others while paying the rent on time

We’re still the rejects of capitol

Even though we’re making paychecks

We’ll never be free

This system was made to exploit

We’d be lucky to end up like our grandparents

And own a trailer in a trailer park

At least we can make our trailer park dinners

And pretend that it’s ten years ago

And we’re at your section 8 condo

Eating frozen pizza

Or Chili-mac

And watching your first son play video games

Or with his trucks outside

Even though he’s a teenager now

Well past the ages we were when we met

And ready to go to college, something that was hard fought

For you and me

Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m here

Getting a PhD

And you’re eight hours away

Working as a single mother with two boys

I wish I could send something up to you

But I have nothing but words, these words

And hope

I can help you and your son navigate the path

Of community college and maybe beyond

I should really plan to visit –

And not the kind of “should” where I say it

And then I never follow through

It’s hard when you have no money to see old friends

We will never grow out of being rejects

Capital will never be in abundance for us

You will be an administrator at a school until you retire

And I hope you get a fantastic retirement

I will adjunct and move from school to school

With students calling me doctor

Without an office or a pension to call my own

I will work until something kills me

Maybe my pancreas – maybe my liver

We will both grow older but you will be loved

By your sons

By a mate

And I will have a degree

And at least one, if not more, cats

And I hope we can yet again be neighbors

And I hope we can always stay friends

And make cruelty-free trailer park dinners

When helping your youngest son apply to colleges

And sipping wine out front

While watching someone’s son play with trucks

Or seeing whatever passes for a video game being played

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Amanda Riggle

Amanda graduated with her BA in English Education, is finishing her MA in English Literature, and is entering into an English PhD program fall 2018. She studies Early Modern English Drama, Marxism, and Feminism. She is an editorial board member of The Socialist, one of the co-founders of the Inland Empire chapter of the Socialist Party USA, co-chair of the Socialist Party of California, and a member of the Socialist Party USA's National Committee.

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