A Favorite Book… My First Exposure to Living in a Vehicle

I hope this post brings back fond memories.  The Boxcar Children is a book which was later made into a movie and spawned a series of books.  The original story, written by a school teacher, Gertrude Chandler Warner, was published in 1924 and re-released in 1942.  I recall it was a favorite of my mother’s when she was younger.  It is a favorite of mine.  After finding a battered copy of the Boxcar Children in some junk to be sold at a garage sale, I now keep it as a semi-holy document in the van.  This charming story is as relevant to a van camper or van dweller of today as much as a kid who was reading it in the 1970s.

In the story, the Boxcar Children were four kids whose parents were dead.  I don’t recall the book ever telling how the parents died.  They were on the run, afraid of their grandfather who they had been told was an unkind man.  The children took refuge in a bakery only to overhear the baker’s wife tell her husband how the couple would send the smallest child to an orphanage and keep the other three.  The kids fled in fear.

The children escaped and eventually found an old abondoned boxcar, conveniently close to a water fountain.  They decided to live in the boxcar and had a pretty good existence.  The oldest boy, Henry, did some part time work for a kind doctor who paid him a dollar on most days.  The children continued to live in the boxcar scrounging for and cleaning items such as cups and silverware from a dump.  They ate native berries and, using the money Henry made, were able to buy cheese, meat, and bread.  Vegetables were made into a stew.  Notably, the children ate a well balanced diet.

Violet, the youngest girl, became very ill.  The doctor for whom Henry worked, helped care for Violet.  He contacted the grandfather who fell in love with the kids after meeting them.  Grandfather Alden turned out to be a kindly man who was very wealthy.  After the kids moved into his house, the grandfather had the old boxcar moved onto his property for the kids to play in.  They all lived happily ever after.

I read the entire book last night – over 160 pages.  Much has changed during the period since I first read The Boxcar Children.  It’s been over thirty-five years, closer to forty.  The book is written for a child – one who would have been reading the tale in the 1920s.  The grammar was quite… well… it was very prim and proper while at the same time warm and captivating.  Though The Boxcar Children book series has over one hundred titles, my favorite will always be the first.  There will always be children and, hopefully, boxcars.  That’s what keeps this book timeless.

I identified with The Boxcar Children even more so as an adult.  In a way, I am a boxcar child.   Happily occupying my van and living as independently as possible, there is a peaceful bliss that comes with self-sufficient solitude.  Like the Boxcar Children, much of my day minutes are spent in the “real world” and the nights are spent sleeping in a vehicle where every noise can awaken a person.  In the story, the Boxcar Children were escaping danger.  My situation is a little different.  I am escaping/coping with the challenges of a mental illness and some of the more painful effects of advancing diabetes.  Both the “Boxcar Childre” and this van dweller are happy with the way life is playing out.

The Boxcar Children story ends on a happy note.  A kind and generous grandfather helped them.  It struck me last night that I also have someone in my life who loves and accepts me and lets me keep my “boxcar” on his land. That person is Dad.  He does not completely understand why I prefer to sleep in the van or why I like taking a bath with a plant sprayer, but he knows it makes me happy.  That makes him happy.  And all are living happily ever after.

Please let me know if you remember reading this book.

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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

2 Responses to A Favorite Book… My First Exposure to Living in a Vehicle

  1. Wolf says:

    Never read it, but it sure sounds good.
    Thanks for sharing !

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am a lurker and enjoy your blog. Best of luck and thanks for keeping it up to date. I admire you and how you write of the good and the bad which I know isn’t always easy, you have a lot to be proud of of.