The years had disappeared. My home had fallen apart; my children were gone. My possessions had all been lost or abandoned. The only thing I had left was a happy little mutt named Gypsy I had rescued from the dog pound years before. We lived in an old station wagon all that winter.
I found a food line that served every day. Gypsy was most often the first to be given a plate, piled high with our first glimpse of that day’s meal. She made more friends than I did. She had more fun. Her new friends brought her scraps; kitchen workers filled her plate. Every day, she waited patiently outside the door while
I ate. After every meal, she and I sat in a nearby field and waited for evening.
When I woke up in my car on Christmas Day, I heard no sounds of life: no traffic, no music, no voices. An unwelcome damp kept me in the car until it was time for the midday meal. I walked to the hall with my dog and tied her up at the door. I went inside and lingered over my Christmas turkey-on-a-tray.
I recognized some people standing in line for second helpings—not usually served. It made me happy to think we would have a special Christmas treat—a second serving. But when I went again to the front of the line, the server recognized me by the wrap I always wear. “No seconds until everyone else has firsts,” she said.
I turned away empty-handed. Others in the hall unwrapped small presents and called holiday plans to one another. Their happy smiles sparkled under the bright lights. Laughter mixed with holiday tunes coming from the kitchen’s radio. “Merry Christmas,” someone called to me. “Thank you,” I said “Merry Christmas to you.”
I retrieved my happy dog. We walked to middle of downtown. We sat on a cold cement bench under an overhang. Fog crept close. Gypsy sat at my feet and watched my face for signs of play. She wiggled her eyebrows and rolled her eyes. She shivered.
I had never seen fog so deliberate. I had never seen streets so empty. I drew my wrap around me and gave my dog a kiss on her caring face and scratched her cheek.
I missed my family. A warm place to go. The smell of cooking. Lights, a ready bathroom, a door to close behind me. My mother. My sons. After a while, we walked to the car to wait for the evening meal.
My days of standing in food lines are now long past. But I feel the glow of a warm place to go, the pleasure of a well-cooked meal, the welcome of friendly greetings. If I had to, I could stand again in a food line. I would wait for a glimpse of the day’s meal, looking forward to the possibility of an extra serving. At the end of the meal I’d walk back to my car and keep myself warm with memories.