Sunday, February 20, 2011

What is home?

What is home to you?
      I lived in Florida for a few months last winter. There was a woman I would see every day. This was her home.
      It was in a small sheltered area behind a restaurant, small stores and rental complex off a parking lot.
     At first I thought it was a place for trash and overflow of things that might be in a garage or carport.  The area is strict with keeping the homeless away from local residents, the working public and tourists. I would watch them, mostly they were polite and kind and asked them to move on. Private property rules and laws they said. But twice I saw someone being rude with that sense of privleged arrogance that went with it.
     She kept her clothes in one of the big green trash containers in plastic bags. Her food 'pantry' was the smaller of the green containers. She said she could seal it tightly to keep the animals from stealing her food. She got up early, washed up from an old large water bottle that she had filled up the night before from a public restroom. Her head was usually wrapped up in a colorful scarf. Her shoes though, were worn and dusty.  She arranged all her belongings neatly and either walked or rode the bicyle. This was how it looked all day. Late at night, after dark, she spread it around using card board sheets as her mattress. An old blanket from the green container. Quiet as a church mouse. She was clean, friendly. Always had a smile for me. Beautiful even with a few missing teeth. I thought she had an occassional odd job around town, but I wasn't sure.
       When the weather was rainy or unseasonably cold she took shelter in a local homeless center for the night. I would see her around town and she would nod in acknowledge. She walked tall with confidence. Sometimes she had a plastic bag that was filled with bumpy looking things. I don't know what she had in there or what she did with it. She kept to herself. She was polite and soft spoken when talked to.
I would watch her often. She knew I watched her. I don't think she was concerned about me exposing her home to anyone that would make her leave. I wanted to ask her questions, to offer her something. How did she come to this and what did she need or want. I was intrigued by her, by the life she lead and by her demeanor.
     I decided that I would offer her a meal or money to get something she needed. I didn't want to disrespect her by prying. And in the offering, we chatted. She had been living this way fro quite some time. There was no more information as to how it all came about.  I knew it was her private life to share if she wanted to. She told me she was going to see her daughter soon, in a few days. That she had been saving money for a plane ticket for quite some time and she was excited to go. But she also said that she also looked forward to coming back home again.
     That was when I understood that home really is where your heart and spirit are.