A Village That Won't Be Home for Christmas Anymore

Redevelopment in Howard County is forcing more than 200 families out of their mobile homes.
Redevelopment in Howard County is forcing more than 200 families out of their mobile homes. (By Linda Davidson -- The Washington Post)
By Darragh Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Evanses' Christmas tree stretches to the ceiling, tinseled in silver and dotted with a few lists for Santa. "IPod, birds, bedroom, guitar, no brothers, long hair," reads the 8-year-old girl's.

On the floor just beyond, the 5-year-old is killing insurgents, the explosions from his video game machine gun punctuating the Evans family's grim holiday spirit:

This is the last Christmas they'll be together in this Howard County trailer park. It's their last Christmas in neighboring mobile homes, here where Christine Evans spent part of her childhood, where she bore two children and nursed her dying father and father-in-law. Her parents lived here for 13 years, across the street from where Christine and her husband and five kids have lived for the past six years.

By Sept. 5, everyone at Aladdin Village must move. The community's 40 acres along Route 1, just south of the U.S. 1 Flea Market and across the street from the Maryland State Police barracks, are about to become, as the sign at the edge of the property announces, Elkridge Towne Center, a "mixed-use development featuring townhomes, condominiums, retail & commercial." At the other end of the trailer park stands a blue sign as tall as a building, announcing the arrival of Ryan Homes' Village Towns, featuring "luxury garage and non-garage townhomes from under $310s."

Forty-three families already have left Aladdin Village, pulling out their trailers or leaving their homes behind to be destroyed. The remaining 165 families, including the Evanses and Christine's mother, Susan Hardy, are still making plans.

For Hardy, this time of family traditions and togetherness is being blown apart: "You're all trying to go separate ways, trying to find a place to live."

"It's like the whole spirit's gone this year," Christine Evans adds.

The 29-year-old woman and her mother, 48, have the same intense aquamarine eyes. They both adore Christmas. As they sit in the dining area of Evans's mobile home, their memories rush forth, riding the breakfast sizzle coming from the kitchen, where Christine's husband, Richard, is frying bacon, sausage, eggs and hash.

In years past, the women reminisce, December meant making Swedish meatballs and listening to carols and drinking eggnog . . . and baking chocolate chip cookies and ragged-robin cookies and banana bread and pumpkin pie from scratch . . . and watching "Miracle on 34th Street" and "It's a Wonderful Life" . . . and deciding who's going to make the holiday potato salad, and who's making yams, and who's making the ham, and how.

December also meant intense decorating competitions between Christine and her father. (First prize in the trailer park competition in years past was $30, payable in cash or rent reduction.) Those holiday contests got so frenzied that just a couple of days before giving birth to her fourth child, Christine found herself on a stepladder, adding bows to a garland she had looped around the front porch. She remembers her father taking the flag from his flagpole and stretching lights from its top to bottom.

"He just put lights around everything he could find," Susan Hardy says.

"If he didn't have to drive the vehicle, he'd've put lights on that, too," Christine says.

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