Sunday, Nov. 6, 10:24 a.m. ,Ponchatoula, Louisiana — The explosion Mom has been leading herself to finally happened yesterday.
A few weeks ago, FEMA brought us a new camper, one just slightly larger than the one we have now, but I wasn’t overly excited about it. I was still voting for the house trailer, and Dad was still voting against it.
When FEMA brought us the camper, they only delivered it. It wasn’t until yesterday that three men came to hook it up to the electricity and sewage.
I wanted to get some things done online that day, which meant I needed to drive to Hammond and visit Southeastern University ’s library. Mom was busy cleaning containers that we had carried plates and things back from the house in, so I drove myself. When I left, the men hooking up the trailer were still working.
I stayed at Southeastern’s library for around three hours, and I talked to my great friend Cat online. I haven’t talked to her in ages, because she’s been busy with school and her own things, but we’ve emailed each other a lot since the storm came. We’ve texted and occasionally called, but it’s not the same as it used to be with us, which makes me sad because I miss talking to her.
We talked about a lot of things: school, issues with friends, maybe going to visit Texas State in a few weeks. I didn’t know what was going on at the camper, and curiosity was starting to set in. When Cat left to go meet her mom for lunch, I finished sending a few emails and then drove home.
What made the trip nice was driving on the interstate with Pat Benatar on the way to Southeastern and Blondie on the way back. There was lots of singing involved on my part, there and back. It was rather pleasant to be alone and silly once again.
I came back to the camper, and the men were gone. Dad was there now, and I saw Mom step out of our first camper, an armful of clothes in her hand. She was red and blotchy in the face, and the happiness from having a double dosage of Blondie and Pat quickly disappeared.
“This is your camper now, Sam!” She was yelling hysterically.
By this point in my adventure, I have developed a very keen sixth sense to know when a day is going to be good or bad, depending on her mood. That afternoon, my newfound sense was obviously telling me, was going to be pretty crappy.
In the end, I was right. Really, my accuracy is uncanny.
Mom stormed out of my camper, slamming the door behind her, marched to the new one, and roughly threw her clothes onto the floor. She kept screaming that she wanted her family under one roof, that family was the only thing she had left now. I stayed clear, but there are only a few places someone can hide in a camper.
She kept throwing her things on the floor of the new camper, until there were piles everywhere of her belongings.
Mom barged back into the camper. I was in her old bedroom, folding one of my old Hannan T-shirts. “How many towels do you need?”
I didn’t know what to say. What could I say? I bit my lip.
“I’m not involved in this,” I told her.
“I didn’t ask that!” she yelled at me. She said some more things, yelling, yelling at me for things I had no part in. Didn’t they hear me when I said we should get a house trailer? Did they just ignore me like they always do when those words came from my mouth?
She was slamming doors all night, moving her things in a huff from one camper or the other.
“Well, I guess I’ll have to buy another toaster!” Good, I like toast in the morning.
“We don’t have a family anymore!” Of course, she was blaming Dad for that one, because like I’ve said, he was the one that pushed for a second camper here on the lot, to make a “camper compound.”
Mom, as she claims, objected to the idea from the beginning.
Dad came into my camper around eight that night, and Mom called my cell, telling me that she was going to her parents. We watched as she pulled out of the yard and drove away. Dad and I watched Catch Me If You Can together, because it came on television. During one of the commercial breaks, he said that I should sleep in the new camper that night to make Mom feel better.
Why should I try to make her feel better when she spent the entire day yelling at me for things that weren’t my fault? But, okay. Whatever. Fine. I took my pajamas and my MP3 player, and I walked to the new camper. I put a blanket on the sofa and crawled under it completely, because all of Mom’s storming around let in a swarm of mosquitoes.
I think I must have woken up around six or so that morning. Mom was sitting on the little cushioned bench by the table, crying still. My God, does she ever stop?
Those things dangling from the bench, darling, are your own two feet. Stand up now. Walk around and stretch them out. No more books on dream houses. No more crying and yelling. Deal with it on your own.
When she got up to take her shower, I slipped out and went to the old camper to get ready for church. (Mom found a Catholic church not far away and she has been making the family go — and making me play flute for Mass.) I put in a CD, and I got dressed to A Perfect Circle. It was so nice. I ate breakfast alone like I have always loved to do, my alone time. I got dressed and didn’t have to move away from the mirror when I pulled my hair back into a ponytail.
Mom knocked on the door of my camper when I was still getting dressed.
“I brought you your stuff,” she said, talking about the things I’d left in the new camper from last night. “You didn’t have to sleep there. It wasn’t necessary.”
I told her to put it there, that I didn’t have a shirt on and I’d get it later. She exploded at that, and I can’t say that my tone was angelic because it wasn’t. I was still very angry that all she did was scream at me the day before.
I walked outside after I finished getting dressed, and I brought my flute and purse to the car. Mom was already there, looking for something in the backseat. I asked her how long it was going to be before she was ready to go to church.
“I’m ready,” she said. Her tone was really ugly, and it made me even more furious. “How long is it until you are going to be ready?”
“Forget it,” I said, and I started walking back to my camper. “I’m not going to church!” I opened the door to the camper. “I’m so tired of getting yelled at for this! This isn’t my fault! Quit yelling at me!”
I walked in and slammed the door behind me. Mom wasn’t far behind. She was crying again, but I don’t know why. She’s the one yelling at me all of the time! She said that she had come this morning to apologize. I laughed, because the way she spoke wasn’t anything close to sounding apologetic. She kept screaming and crying hysterically. She accused me of wanting the family split apart, wanting her gone.
Personally, I think I put up a good argument, and in the end, Mom threw open the cabinets and grabbed some cans of food, crackers, and a can of Pringles. She stormed towards the door and opened it. It banged against the camper’s side.
“All you do is yell at me! Constantly!” I said to her.
“Maybe you deserve it!” she shouted back.
“This isn’t even my fault!” I told her again. She threw the things in her hands to the ground. The Pringles can was knocked open, and chips spilled onto the grass. She marched away, I assume to continue her temper tantrum elsewhere.
It’s not fair. Yes, I am well aware that she is stressed.
I am also well aware that a giant hurricane decided to come and destroy her house. Amazing that both facts hold true for me as well.
I am tired. I am stressed. I am homeless. Every day, I wake up to some town that is not St. Bernard, not where I belong. Every day I go to school, I go to classes without Jenn. I haven’t been able to talk to Cat in ages, because I can’t use my phone unless it’s a night or a weekend because the minutes are free — and even then, I’m lucky if the call will even go through. There’s no signal in the woods where we live now. And even if I did have the ability to make a call, there’s no privacy to talk to my friends.
Excuse me if, yes, I was just a little happy over the idea of having my own camper for a little while.
Mom is not alone in this mess. Does she think she is? I lost everything, too. So did millions of other people from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. I’m tired of being the scapegoat for her anger. I’m tired of it, and like I’ve said, everyone has a breaking point.
Right now, I’m in the yard, away from the yelling for a little while. I cleaned out the cabinets where I moved my clothes. All the things I own are on my bed right now, my old bed, the one next to the bathroom. She can have her space. I really don’t want to go back to the campers, and I really don’t feel like talking to her for a long time. This isn’t my fault. She’s not right when she is yelling at me, blaming me for things I had no control in.
I voted house trailer. Don’t they remember?
I’m going to find a place where the mosquitoes aren’t so bad and settle down with some music. Then, I’m going to work on a new story. Writing it away helps. It takes you away for a little while. Words are magical because they take someone away from where they’re standing, away from campers, away from stress, and throw that person down into a new place with new people and new situations.
A new life … even if only for a little while.
Samantha Perez is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International. Michel Lee is an Artist for Youth Journalism International.