Friday, April 30, 2010

Nothing left to lose (preamble)

Our new Housing Authority case manager decided that, despite bouts of the most intense cleansanity, our window tracks weren’t quite clean enough…and so, evicted us – a new and wholly unfamiliar experience for us.

Our oldest two children were at my sister’s, in anticipation of our move; my husband and I were asleep on the floor with our two youngest children, thinking we had at least one more day, when a loud knocking at the front door awakened us. Blinking sleepily, we opened the door to a team of “movers” and a sheriff, who ordered us to vacate immediately. I was still in a fog as I gathered together shoes and keys and computer stuff, speaking soothingly to the children as I dropped them off with a friend.

I returned to a scene: though we’d moved the majority of our belongings into storage the day before, some meaningful items still remained; these, the movers were throwing unceremoniously into black trash bags and onto the front lawn. In under an hour, the house was completely empty; an “Unlawful to Occupy” tag was slapped onto the front window, and the whirlwind of people vanished just as quickly as they’d appeared.

We were told we’d have 48 hours to retrieve our belongings from the grounds. Fully awake now, but dazed with shock, I somehow willed myself into opening the black trash bags and retrieving what mattered – and there was plenty: photographs of a 19–year-old me, fragile knick-knacks that meant so much, hard drives containing important files, dried and canned food items. I stashed the rescued items into the shed and piled the garbage together neatly. When nightfall came, we’d yet to dismantle the large swingset, and our friend with the truck had not returned as promised; so we slapped a padlock on the shed with plans to move the rest in the morning.

Retreating to a motel, we slept deeply; when morning came, we checked out.

We returned to what had been our home just a day before, astonished: the lock had been broken off the shed, and the parties responsible had helped themselves to our modest treasures. Everything meaningful was gone -- including birth certificates, social security cards and tax returns -- and what the vultures deemed unworthy was spread all over our carefully tended yard, natural-disaster style. It took a while to register…and I was stunned to realize they’d even dismantled and made off with the swingset in the middle of that windswept night.

I stumbled under the weight of unseen eyes and sneers; again, I willed myself into composure, forcing myself not to cry as I picked through the soggy piles of toys, books and clothing one last time. Eventually I ceded, sighing and defeated. I sat in the driver’s seat clenching the steering wheel, gazing at the house through tear-filled eyes; with a sorrow-choked voice, I thanked it for the years of warmth and shelter it gave my family.

As I drove off, I glimpsed the nappy crackheads who live catty-corner, peeking at me through their dirty, sagging mini-blinds…and the out-of-control Mexican boy Elmer who lives three doors down -- the up-and-coming young arsonist who set the Adams school playground and park on fire, and recently broke into the school building to vandalize it with a fire extinguisher…whose family was almost certainly responsible for inflicting upon us our own personal and material destruction -- riding his bike and feigning innocence. The Chinese man next door looked at me sadly and waved goodbye, as did the elderly Japanese woman across the street; I waved back…wanting them both to only remember the smiling me.

That house on the corner, directly across the street from Adams Elementary and Adams Park, where my family would sit and swing, listening to the music of school children’s laughter while enjoying the view and each other; that house where we strove to be stewards of our low-income neighborhood, working with, in and for our community; my love for that house knew no bounds. Like Adams Elementary School, and Adams Park, the house is now just a dry and empty shell, with barely a memory of what once was.

Dirty window tracks or no, the neighborhood will be the worse without us. Homeless are we, and down – but not out; with nothing left to lose, we trudge forward...ever faithful for a brighter tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers - make it happen mama!