If This is December,
It Must Be Christmas Time

Written Christmas 1995, my first Christmas while homeless

When I was a child, Mother bought us construction paper, elaborate sets of crayons and markers, soft, fresh modeling clay, knitting needles, three colors of yarn, neatly planed wood, all beveled and trimmed, candle wax with a line of scents and colors made just for candles, to make our handmade gifts.

I have rummaged paper. A group of (somewhat) assorted markers assembled from donations. One skein of donated turquoise yarn from a lady at church. A crochet needle from a social worker. Scrounged wood. Odd-sized nails. Amusing objects picked up off the street.

I like my cards better now.

For Christmas dinner I have no stove to bake my-own-recipe pumpkin pie. I can't soak walnuts in my own tarragon vinegar for my special spinach salad. I will miss my sister's Parker-House rolls. I will miss baking stuffed Cornish hens for my son on our other-parent's Christmas.

I will eat overcooked turkey and bland inoffensive stuffing that kind people have donated for me and kind people have cooked for me and kind people will serve to me. I will eat off a paper plate with a small white plastic spoon (I gave my son Tylenol with a spoon like that when he was three months old) and a small white plastic fork that kind people have bought for me, in a shelter that I cannot afford.

I will eat with Jessie, sixty years old, who has a hard time walking. (Jessie always has a hard time.) She grates on my nerves when she whines, but she makes me glow when she laughs. She looks like a portrait I loved, of an old peddler-woman, made from a dried apple.

I will eat with Coral, who works, who irons her clothes every morning, who hates being called homeless, who lives in the shelter so she can pay her bills.

I will eat with Sue who does art with us on an Antioch scholarship. She is recovering from divorce, and she lets us comfort her when the tears are wild and the shaking won't stop. She is one of us.

I will eat with Liz, who does art with me at the Street Life Gallery. We compare notes on depression. Someday, one of us will understand it.

I will have a good Christmas.