Some Mother’s Child

Posted: May 11, 2008 in Children, Family, Homelessness

With today having been Mother’s Day, I found myself thinking back to my childhood.

I was fortunate to have known both of my Grandmothers, as well as one of my maternal Great-Grandmothers (my mom’s mother’s mother). And, as I thought about each one of them throughout the day, I found myself occasionally smiling for no reason whatsoever except for the memories of the times I had with them.  

It’s been years since each one of them has passed away. Despite being in my early fifties, it’s quite apparent to me that I have never outgrown my love or need for them. And, I miss being able to wish them a Happy Mother’s Day. More than that, I miss being able to do something silly to make them laugh. I miss hearing the sound of their voice. I even miss the times I’d get scolded by one of them for doing something I shouldn’t have.

None of them had any real formal education but they had a lot of good old fashioned common sense, as well as a fund of wisdom that comes from having hearts filled with unwavering love for their families.

Of the three, I was closest to my paternal Grandmother. That she was one of the most influential persons in my life is a given.

A soft spoken woman, for whom smiles and laughter came easily, she seemed to always know how to guide me through life’s little twists and turns. Yet, she never volunteered advice just for the sake giving it. Her way of helping me through tough times was to encourage me to attempt and find a solution on my own. If I succeeded, she would be full of praise. If I couldn’t find a solution, she would offer just enough insight to point me in the right direction.

I miss the comfort of her presence in my life.

I spent Mother’s Day of 2006 and 2007 as a homeless person. On both of those days, my "home" was a tent in a vacant field, hidden in a cluster of trees. There was another couple who also shared our campsite.

We had no running water. No electricity. No bathroom facilities. No bathing facilities. No way of cooking a warm meal. We used old milk crates as chairs. The only type of entertainment we had was conversation, listening to a battery powered radio or reading. The only time we’d take off our shoes was just before we’d crawl into our respective tents to go to sleep. Life wasn’t even life; it was just base existence.

Our neighbors were insects, lizards, field mice, a couple of possums, and birds. Every so often we’d get some dogs or cats that would wander through the camp. The only human visitors we’d have were other homeless persons – and the occasional law enforcement personal who’d come through and check our ID’s, then tell us that we’d to find somewhere else to go; we couldn’t stay where we were.

I recall having to relocate four times in one week, only to end up right back at our "first" camp. Several months later, while everyone from camp was elsewhere for the day, local law enforcement came through, "tagged" our camp with an "official notice" informing us that we had to move within three days or we’d get a ticket, and collapsed the tents by pulling out the tent poles and tent stakes. My tent was damaged as a result.

Mother’s Day this year… I no longer live in a tent; haven’t had to for quite a number of months. I’m not reliant on any homeless support services agency or organization. I have a real bed to sleep in each night. When the weather is nice, I’ll open up a window and let the fresh air in. If it’s cold or raining – then obviously I close the window.

When I feel like sitting down, I don’t have to use old milk crates or the ground. A good portion of the time, I no longer put my shoes on unless I head out the door to go somewhere.

A year ago today when I left my tent, I walked about a mile to one of SLO’s public parks to plug my laptop in and write my post. It’s a walk I took every morning for quite a number of months – regardless of the weather. I’d use a piece of cardboard as a "cushion" between my bottom and the concrete ground.

These days when I wake up, I crawl out of bed, walk into the bathroom and wash the sleep out of my eyes. After I’ve grabbed my morning cup of hot chocolate or coffee, I turn on the news, power up the laptop, check my email, and then start my day.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve managed to find my way out of that field. There are others who have found their way out of that field also. But, they’ve found their way out of there because it’s become a housing development. They had to find somewhere else to "live."

Although there is now a difference in our respective residential statuses, I still have something in common with all of the other homeless people who are still on the streets of my community – but it has nothing to do with the fact that I was one of SLO’s homeless population. It has to do with something that every person has in common…

All of us – housed or homeless – are some mother’s child.

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