In 1985, my father purchased a 1964 Airstream Trade Wind. I remember when he began renovating it in our driveway. Much of the inside he kept original, and it all worked. He redid the floors, and we had a scare that asbestos was in them. I had to be x-rayed for exposure because of course, I was “helping.” Helping as much as a 6 year old could. I was always my dad’s helper, constantly by his side. He can do anything, and looking back, I learned so much. (Turns out I was not exposed to asbestos after all.)
He set it up on a concrete slab on his tree farm on Crawford Springs Road in Beech Bluff, Tennessee. It was a beautiful place, where we would spend hours riding four-wheelers, running with our dog, playing make-believe, shooting bb guns, checking out my dad’s bees… What couldn’t you do in the woods as a kid?
Annie the Airstream served as a refuge for my dad, whose mental illness was overwhelming in the mid 80s and early 90s. It was a place where I knew I’d hear Mozart, watch PBS, read through National Audubon Society Field Guides, and hear bobcats and coyotes outside. I loved being there, I loved the tree farm, and I loved (and still love) being with my dad.
We moved from the country to the “city” in the early 90s and Annie was farther away than 3 minutes down the road. When he sold the farm in the mid 90s, Annie went into hiding. Parts of her were put into an ICG caboose that my dad set up closer to our home near some railroad tracks. The caboose ended up being his next refuge – and it had internet and tv and lots of good snacks. I ended up writing my college thesis at the desk there, and sometimes my friend Jolea and I would raid the caboose’s stock of Jack Daniels Lynchburg Lemonade, Downhome Punch, and Beanie Weenies.
Fast forward to the present. Annie has been inside (and outside) a warehouse for 20 years, unused but still loved. I’m still not sure whether my dad wanted to let her go… in fact he went back and forth over the last few years telling me I could have her then saying he was going to put her somewhere stationary once again.
Yesterday she was towed down to a storage space in my town, and while I am ecstatic to keep her in the family and restore her to her former glory, my heart aches with remembrance. I’m crying and listening to Mozart right now.
While I can’t go home again, Annie can. An email came from my dad today that said:
“I spent a good part of a decade of my life hugging that thing. She was a raft in the terrible sea of my mind at that time. It was a truly scary world in this head at that time and I was lucky to find Annie. Best psychiatrist I ever had. I learned Ghandi and Christ in there, along with Aldo Leopold and many others…..Take care of her.”