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Monday, September 9, 2013

Pop-up Heaven

When I was nine years old, we had a pop-up trailer. It spent a lot of time sitting in the yard, snow – sometimes several feet of it, piled up on its fiberglass roof. It didn’t move till spring – usually late spring, and while our Clark Griswold station wagon got its share of roof snow, we always brushed it off, or let it blow off as we drove it to school or the grocery store.
The trailer just sat there – cold, snowbound, forgotten.

Except by our dog. Copy, whose name was a shortened form of a pretentious French phrase (he was a poodle after all,) regularly made winter pilgrimages to our little pop-up. He rubbed along the trailer’s side, jumped over the connecting tongue, and peed on it. That may seem like an action of distain, but to the brain of a poodle (or a nine-year-old boy,) it was an act of respect and commiseration.
Copy loved summer vacations with the pop-up. We’d throw our stuff into the Griswold, hook up the trailer, and pile in. Copy and I got in the back, or as we called it in deference to The Adventures of Mr. Peabody and His Boy, Sherman, the way-back machine.
The way-back was our special part of the Griswold for two reasons, a) we were the only two agile enough to climb back there, and b) the way-back machine was reliably full of exhaust fumes and our smaller size meant that Copy and I produced the least amount of vomit.

From the way-back machine, we watched the pop-up trailer come to life. First, the trailer hobbled up and down as the flat side of the tires rediscovered their round identity. Then, the leaves and pine needles impressed by months of snow and repeated applications of bird poop worked their way free and flew joyously onto the windshields of cars behind us. Finally, the connecting chain, carefully wrapped around the tongue unraveled and sagged enough to strike sparks from the roadside, bathing the Griswold gas tank with pyro-splendor.

Copy and I eyed each other in those first stages of our carbon-monoxide highs and knew that summer vacation had begun.

And in that state of rapidly diminished brain activity, we knew the pop-up, so long cold and neglected, was happy as well.

There are those that tell me inanimate objects like pop-up trailers have no moods, no hopes, no disappointments, no desires. That the glow we saw bathing the trailer’s smiling front was just a combination of partial asphyxiation augmented by the flames intermittently expelled by the Griswold exhaust system.

Maybe they’re right; maybe little pop-up trailers have no souls; they don’t go to heaven when they die. But if one did, a pop-up’s heaven would be a place where it is always the first day of summer vacation, the leaves and pine needles of depressing winter are stripped away, and oxygen-deprived dogs and children constantly appreciate the roundness of its tires, the gleam of its fiberglass, and sparking majesty of its camp-providing glory.
Kind of like time machines.