It’s official: We’re rednecks…and we love it!

cimg1805I wish I could paint a word picture to do justice to the goings-on in our trailer tonight. It almost requires a video, but I’ll do my best to give you the sights and sounds from memory. But first, there’s a bit of a back story:

After enjoying two full months of country life in our trailer-cottage, we decided to go back to suburbia to visit old neighbors and help them with some pressing projects. We packed ourselves up, lock, stock, and schoolbooks, then crammed ourselves and our necessaries into our old faithful van and headed down the road, anxiously hoping we’d remembered everything on the to-do-before-we-leave list:

* Turn down the thermostat? Check.
* Leave food for the yard kitties? Check.
* Turn out all but the kitchen night light? Check.
* Lock the doors? Check.
* Leave the note for the mail lady? Check.
* Ask the neighbors to keep an eye on things? Check.

Everything was closed up, and our house looked like it missed us already. But we really looked forward to our visit with friends, so off we drove. The children worried that the kitties would miss us, that our country neighbors would miss us, that we’d miss important things happening while we were gone — the list went on. But the closer we got to our old stomping grounds, the more excited they became. They wanted to see friends in our old neighborhood, and they soon forgot what we’d left behind.

Arrived at our destination, out we tumbled, dragging what looked like half our household belongings with us (our friends are perennially tolerant of our entourage and are so gracious that we always feel like family in their home — that sure is a wonderful thing when you have a large family with all its nicks and nacks!). We settled in for what was only supposed to be a five-day visit…that grew into ten…and then sixteen. I told you they were family to us! We got so much done, and we had a wonderful time, but being back in suburbia reminded us of all the reasons we were so glad to downsize and move out to the country. It turns out we were closet rednecks all along.

chatsAnd this brings me to a big revelation I’ve had since moving back to the country after a six-year hiatus in suburbia: I do better living small than living large. Oh, I’ve always entertained fantasies of living in a big, sprawling English manor — or a columned Southern country house with more doors and windows than a body can count. I’ve done my share of drooling over 3500-square-foot homes in house plan books. Yet, when it comes down to it, for me, a big house is just more house to clean. It’s more to keep up with, more to manage, more to repair, and more to stress over, particularly if you have a neighborhood association breathing down your neck.

In our little piece of suburbia, we found out after the fact that outdoor clotheslines were no-nos, that vehicles should not be parked in the driveway but in the garage only, that bicycles and scooters had to be kept out of sight, that trash cans could sit here but not there, that your mailbox had to be kept painted, and the list goes on. The minutiae were enough to kill the most fastidious homemaker. Yes, people in the neighborhood did cheat on the rules and regs (lots of people had above-ground pools, which were a no-no, and most people parked in their driveways), but that didn’t stop the association from scolding (and even threatening one family with a lawsuit if they didn’t park a travel trailer somewhere else than their own driveway — who knew?). In short, living in suburbia with a large family was a little like trying to keep all the brand new Crayolas in the 64 colors box pristine and newly sharpened — and in rainbow order. That just doesn’t happen in our house.

clotheslineSo by the end of our first two months in the country, we all felt like we were finally breathing again — all the way to the bottom of our lungs. Our children could leave all their trikes and balls and army men out in the back yard, and no neighbors tsk-tsked at the sight. I could leave newly-washed rugs out to dry in the sun on the front deck railing and no one raised an eyebrow. We could park our vehicles anywhere we felt like it. We all felt like we were able to stretch, move, and run again after being leashed for several years. Going back to suburbia was a little like trying to put a leash back on a dog who has tasted freedom for two months and isn’t interested in the kennel life any more. Our children felt the leash more than my husband and I did. We couldn’t just open the door and let the littles run into the back yard (there was a lake nearby and a road very close to the house). We couldn’t just turn the girls loose; someone had to be out side to keep an eye on them–and big brothers don’t always like to babysit sisters who aren’t interested in the charms of army men and the vacant lot next door! The freedom of 13 acres and a quarter-mile-long driveway came to a screeching halt, and it was tough on our little folks. Okay, it was tough on Mama, too. 😉 I will freely admit that it is so much more difficult to manage lots of energetic little people when there isn’t room for them to roam, to climb, to jump, to run, and to yell and whoop.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not condemning everyone who doesn’t live in the country! We should all bloom where we are planted. There are seasons where living in town is the best option for many families, and there are most assuredly drawbacks to living in the sticks. But the revelation that has come to me has been the mental leash that we put ourselves on during our Neighborhood Days. I think there’s got to be a way to make suburbia work (I know families who do), but it would take great mental awareness and vigilance to do it. For us, suburbia became a drug. We slowly oozed into the soporific stupor of convenience and forgot so many of the things we took for granted back when we had to be more self-sufficient in the country. I pride myself on being frugal, but it has been a sobering reality check to realize how wasteful and careless I became while living in suburbia. Downsizing on purpose has forced us to wake up — and that waking up is what has shown me that, deep down, I’m a redneck. 😉

cottagegardenI’m not the English manor type at all–much as I once loved to imagine I was. I’m a cottager. If I lived 200 years ago, I’d be the gal in the apron in the low stone cottage, churning butter and humming in the doorway, watching the lady of the manor ride by in her coach with the footman standing up behind. My children would be the ones tumbling about in the dust of the side yard, climbing the ancient apple trees, and chasing the dog into the cow pasture. And tonight’s escapades convinced me once and for all that this beautiful smallness is exactly where I belong.

That brings us back to the beginning of this post. Picture thin slices of chicken, freshly battered, frying up in a pan of olive oil and butter, while I stand mashing potatoes with garlic at the counter. In the background, my oldest daughter slips a favorite family CD into the player in the living room. All of a sudden, the house is alive with the sounds of banjo and fiddle, and my daughters (one wearing a favorite “princess dress”) are clapping and giggling and whirling to the strains of … “Zip Coon” (What? You expected Mozart or Swan Lake?) 😉 Pretty soon, we’ve got half a dozen children clapping, stomping, and dancing in circles to the music:

Round in a circle!

Round in a circle!

Jump in time!

Jump in time!

Old zip coon, he’s a learned scholar,
Old zip coon, he’s a learned scholar,
Old zip coon, he’s a learned scholar,
Sings possum up a gum tree, coony in the holler.”

Take your sister by the hand!

Take your sister by the hand!

Swish your skirt, and...

Swish your skirt, and...

Possum up a gum tree, coony on the stump,
Possum up a gum tree, coony on the stump,
Possum up a gum tree, coony on the stump,
We could overcome our troubles if coon will jump!”

...follow the leader 'round the room!

...follow the leader round the room!

It was a regular hoe-down in our trailer tonight. Daddy came out of his office to join in the fun, twirling little girls and foot-stompin’ with the toddlers. I turned around from all the cookery at the stove and felt a big grin steal over my face. This is it! I thought. Look at this! I stood barefoot in the kitchen, frying up chicken and mashin’ taters while my barefoot offspring had a regular hootenanny in the living room. The giggles and shrieks of laughter were as contagious as the foot-stomping music from the 2nd South Carolina String Band on the player. I called my husband over and said, “See? We were rednecks all along!” He laughed and nodded, his eyes sparkling as he watched the children dancing up a storm.

I think I’ve finally come back around to my roots. I don’t know about you, but I do better with less. I am happier in this little place with our younguns all around us, the music playing, the chicken frying, and the love as warm as the fire crackling in the hearth. I don’t miss the square footage. I feel like I’m finally truly enjoying what I do have and not wishing for what I don’t. I think I’ve learned that, while there are blessings that come with a big house, there are also the worries that crowd in with the responsibilities. It really is possible to pitch the stuff and keep what’s important. How I hope I can remember this lesson. Mr. Darcy can have Pemberley; I’ll keep the cottage. 🙂


10 Responses to “It’s official: We’re rednecks…and we love it!”

  1. 1 lolmomof4 November 26, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    awww…..I wanna come and hootenanny too. Sounds like so much fun!

  2. 2 Mama Hen November 26, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Can I come to your house for dinner? Looks good! My family lives on 8 acres and even though it isn’t huge it is perfect for us. I love the freedom the kids have to just go outside and play. And climb trees and build fortresses and play chase and tag. Love it here.

  3. 3 Viki November 29, 2008 at 3:56 am

    We moved from the suburbs our selves eight years ago. We live on 29+ acres just the two of us in a single wide. My family thought we were nuts. We love it and so do the great nephews. The country (or “out in the boonies”) is perfect for us. We love the helicopters that fly the creek and occasionally dive bomb the homestead and the deer, turkey and ‘possum. If that is being a redneck ye haw so be it!!!

  4. 4 Jenny November 29, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    wonderfully written!
    What a beautiful night and a beautiful memory to cherish.

  5. 5 Kristy November 29, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    What a wonderful post!
    I am a country girl at heart, and the Lord has graciously allowed me to live that dream for the past 16 years…….**happy content sigh**
    We recently had some of our lovely ‘city-folk’ friends out, and when their 14 year old daughter learned it was just fine if she could whoop it up outside – she tilted her head back and let out the biggest yell I’ve ever heard from such a little thing! She then smiled and said she had always wanted to do that………..yummy.
    Blessings ~

  6. 6 tammy December 11, 2008 at 2:27 am

    What a sweet sweet blog! I love my country life (though I’m only 5 minutes from the big city- hard to explain). Thanks for putting a smile on my face!

  7. 7 Wildwood Mama December 19, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    We live in the country as well. Way back in the woods. I’m a cottage girl too-I love the freedom of being out here! We would so get in trouble if we lived in the Burbs. Y’all’s hootenanny looked fun :))

  8. 8 Heidi December 25, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Love, love LOVE your blog! I have 5 children. We recently purchased a home in a neighborhood with 1 acre lots, so we do have a touch of freedom. Your account reminds me of a dear friend with 7 children who live in the “boonies”, and my kids absolutely love visiting them. We hope one day to be able to live in more of a “country” setting. I have been downsizing our “stuff” lately, and your blog has inspired me to continue…
    Thanks for sharing your life!

  9. 9 Lauraleah March 14, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    I can not beging to tell you how much I enjoyed this. We are also rednecks, we moved to our farm 33 years ago , as you can see I am a older Mom. We raised our 6 sons and one daughter and then 2 of our granchildren , they are now 19 and 16, and they love the farm. Your blog is one of the best hands down I ever read . I am so glad I found it
    Lauraleah in Missouri

  10. 10 queenofmytrailer March 18, 2009 at 12:14 am

    Thank you so much for this lovely comment, Lauraleah! There’s just something about bringing up kids in the country — especially boys! We love it! So glad you stopped by!

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About the Queen…

Amanda Livenwell is the pen name of a stay-at-home mom who shares the adventure of living large on one income in, yes, a double-wide trailer! Join our family as we say goodbye to suburbia, trim down, and start saving to build our own home. We're going to talk about doing it yourself, living beautifully on less, making do or doing without, and counting it all joy in the process. We'll cover prep-work and painting, refacing kitchen cabinets, flooring on the cheap, tiling over laminate, upholstering furniture, and just rolling up our sleeves in general. If you love home improvement, this is the place for you. Let's get cracking!

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What Inspires Me Most!

"She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands. She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms. She perceives that her merchandise is good, and her lamp does not go out by night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hand holds the spindle. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness." ~ Proverbs 31:13, 17-19, 27

"Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings;he will not stand before unknown men." ~ Proverbs 22:29

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