I wasn’t expecting to find you when I was focused on my search for a hiking trail recommended by my friend, Michelle. All I wanted to do was catch a good shot of the sunset. When I scrambled up the hill to what I thought was the path, I caught my breath. A virtual tent city, a shanty town – an enormous complex of people’s homes underneath this bridge I cross daily.
Other people might run away. I hesitated but I stayed. The lighting wasn’t good under there or I would have taken photos.
This sight had “compelling” written all over it and might wake some people up who are completely unaware of the homelessness right in their neighborhoods, hidden away.
You were waving your arms at me, to get my attention.
I saw you and could recognize the ravages of methamphetamine. “Can you take me to 19th and M street please? They took all my things, all I have is here… they took all my clothes, everything,” you told me.
You had a suitcase.
You had a trashbag filled with recyclables.
You had no shame, no embarrassment at asking me: owner of a new car, an expensive smart phone and much more than I bet you remembered ever having.
I asked what was at 19th and M. “My Uncle,” you told me. You mentioned your son, and your daughter, and your other children. I had no idea where they were, no idea how old they were because my guess is you were probably much younger than you looked with your hair neatly combed albeit in a very offbeat style.
“I built this place and they wrecked it!” you said, seeming to not want to stop talking for fear I might vaporize.
You do see things that aren’t real, you told me. You do hear things you don’t think are here.
We put your broken suitcase empty of clothes and your collection of cans and plastic in the back of my car.
We drove two miles to where you needed to go. I asked your name. You told me. I told you my name.
You said you recognized me. Perhaps you do. Or perhaps I am another of those things you have seen that aren’t real. It doesn’t matter to me. You had enough sense to not smoke your cigarette in my car and before we had gone a mile you started calling me your fairy godmother.
I took you where you asked to go and you surprised me when you pulled out a cell phone. I wondered if your children had called you today on this Mother’s Day. Maybe you weren't aware it was Mother’s day.
I took the suitcase out and carried it to the side of the building as you asked me.
I smiled and went about the rest of my business of the day.
You, dear Mom, will forever be a part of my lexicon now.
You are in my prayers as are your children.
Finding you and helping you, another mother, was so much more important than finding the perfect sunset shot – even though I managed to get a pretty cool image there as well.
Perhaps we were each others’ Fairy Godmother.
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© 2013 Julie Jordan Scott