The Happy Caravan Is Coming For Us

TikTok's de la Motte family has packed up their ten children and is headed to NYC

Amber de la Motte/ TikTok
von trapped in the airstream

Beware: A TikTok family of ten homeschooled string-virtuoso children and their parents are driving their airstream trailer from a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco right onto your itty bitty iPhone screen, all the while misappropriating viral song clips about sex for their wholesome Trapp Family Singers-style family band content.

It’s the Happy Caravan, AKA the de la Motte family, and they’re on their way to a new two-bedroom apartment in New York so three of their children can attend Juilliard.

And while they’re physically going to be in Harlem (they saw their new home over FaceTime, as explained in the above TikTok), spiritually, these people are everywhere. Why?

Who the hell are these people?

Amber de la Motte — a bedimpled mix of Joanna Newsom, Jennifer Garner, and Liz Bruenig — went viral in March for the TikTok tour of the family’s um, cozy, apartment (Amber’s got the documents to prove it’s legal for 12 people to live in it).

In a more recent video, Amber shows off how her kids with husband Marc have been living on the road as they make their trip to the Big Apple. Commenters did not take kindly to the fun-loving image of one their children sleeping without a foam pad on the floor of a trailer (Enoch is fine, and he “willingly gave up the spot on the other bed for Melody”).

Probably the most remarkable thing to note is that most of their children, even the tiny ones, play string instruments.

Which brings me to our next point.

Are they religious?

According to discussion in the Subreddit FundieSnarkUncensored, the family was formerly a part of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist sect, but by Amber’s own report, they’ve left the “cult-like church” they belonged to for 15 years because of “extra-biblical beliefs” like “rock music is evil” and “women should only wear skirts” and also because “the pastors went to church for doing bad things,” including sexual abuse of minors.

I respect Amber’s candor a lot about the family’s reckoning with the IFB in this TikTok:

And it does seem like they’re blossomed since having left the sect — Amber’s just recently started wearing pants and overalls.

Why are they moving to New York?

Three of the seven auditioning de la Motte children got into Juilliard. Their oldest two children auditioned for the college program, and the five younger auditioned for a pre-college program on the weekends. Pearl, a viola player, was accepted into the college program on a full scholarship. Noah, a bass player, and Naomi, a violinist, were accepted into the pre-college program.

Their oldest son, 16-year-old Elijah, is a “natural talent” who was playing Suzuki cello book at age two. However, he was rejected by Julliard, humiliating the entire family. “I think Elijah’s natural ability allowed him to not sufficiently be scared to practice as long or as hard as he should have,” Amber reports. He is now practicing four hours a day, up from two.

The family is planning on revitalizing and not gentrifying their new block in Harlem (and Amber’s got some ideas about “city planning meetings.”)

Their piano’s going with them. As of last night, they’re somewhere between Utah and Nevada in that airstream trailer.

OK, still, how are they affording all this?

This has been the most vexing part of the fascinating de la Motte family, and questions about their income have come up time and time again in their comments section, as well as in this Twitter thread that dares to ask all the right questions about their finances. Their place is small for 12, but not small small, and they have some expensive furniture.

The children make money busking, and Amber’s husband Marc is a “freelance graphic designer” and makes metal signs, the profits of which seem like they could cover one hour of feeding a family of 12. Hmm.. I’m sure they could monetize their page, too, which it seems like Amber is working on.

Amber shared that their two bedroom rent in San Francisco was $4,500, and in another TikTok that appears to be deleted, she showed off the family’s new instrument haul worth $79,000. In 2021, their daughter Pearl raised money on GoFundMe for a new viola.

Could they have family money? Maybe, probably. The de la Motte family is originally from San Diego, as is the late Alfred de la Motte, a “self-made entrepreneur” born in 1880 who made his name and fortune as the owner of the largest music store in Southern California. All this information is gleaned from a 2003 report lobbying to have the 1925 Tudor Revival house he built protected as a landmark in San Diego. The house, now worth $2.65 million, looks gorgeous.

But that could mean anything.

It also appears as if a Marc and Amber de la Motte, whom I have not confirmed to be the same couple of de la Mottes but what are the odds, owned a home in Lemon Grove, CA which sold for $511,000 in March 2020, which aligns with the family’s move to San Francisco.

Are they good?

Hell yeah! I mean, it’s a little creepy, but the raw skill is there, totally.