“Can you express?” Rose said, in the back seat of the car. She was coming with me to take a friend shopping, before we did our own shopping.
The voice is how Rose and I bond, as I’ve said before. Sometimes we act out stories sitting in front of the dollhouse, but we also improvise dialogues about the magical utopia of UltraVille while going back and forth to run errands. I recently learned that librarians in UltraVille libraries have their own code of laws and penal system, much like the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, with a jail cell near the book drop for patrons whose books are so long overdue. I also learned that his figurines belonged to a rite of Christianity known as “UltraVille Generic”, whose liturgies somewhat resemble Eastern Orthodoxy and whose fasting days become extremely complicated. When her dollhouse action figures sit down for dinner, they say Grace while intoning “I only have bread.” Only I give bread. Amen.”
“Where did you hear this prayer?” I asked.
“It sounds like something that would be in the Bible,” Rose said.
This seemed to me to be a very simple expression of the universal destination of goods: all resources actually belong to God, all resources are gifts lent by God, and it is up to us to move them.
On this particular road trip, Rose wanted to “express” her characters in the winter, just before Christmas. It was comforting, simulating a winter scenario on a hot, humid afternoon. We pretended it was almost Christmas all the way to my friend’s apartment.
My friend lives on the border between Steubenville and Wintersville, and she hasn’t been well lately. There was a mix-up in her food stamp renewal for the year, which meant she had an extra week without grocery help this month – and, thanks to furniture rental, no money at all to spend on food for the children. And then the car broke down. The mechanic diagnosed all sorts of issues that he couldn’t afford to fix, so it was pointless. Without the car, they cannot get to work.
I hope I have demonstrated on this blog that being poor is complicated. There is no margin for error. There’s nothing to fall back on if your plans don’t work out. When something goes wrong, it can trigger a landslide. When several things go wrong, it’s a disaster. And when it’s a disaster, there’s not much a friend can do to hold you back. I’m racked with stress just thinking about how to help; I can’t imagine what she’s going through.
I had to drive his partner to his night shift yesterday or he would have lost his job, further destroying their lives. And then I took his family to dinner, and then I had no more money to help him. I still don’t know what they will do on Monday.
Today I drove her to a local church that was giving a gift. For an hour in the afternoon, anyone who came to see them could fill a bag with toiletries and used clothes for free. There were also a few toys and larger items as a gift – she got a stroller and stuffed it in the trunk, and a bike for her eldest son and stuffed it in the backseat with Rose.
“He’s going to be so excited,” she said.
“Do you want to see if any pantries are open for you to spend the weekend?” I asked.
My friend didn’t have her card to let her into the pantry, but I had mine. I hadn’t used it for a few months. Sometimes our income drops so low that we can’t afford the necessities, and sometimes it’s so generous that we almost lose our Medicaid. The card was still on my key fob. You need a card as they can only give out one box per household per month as there is so much need.
She sat with Rose in the air conditioning of the car while I peeked out the door.
“If I get a box today, do I have to eat it all myself? Is it a rule? Can I share it with my neighbor? »
The lady looked surprised. “You can do whatever you want with it. As long as you only take one box per month.
The menu entitled me to twelve dry products, two pounds of frozen meat, a deli meat, two breads, a dessert, and as many bruised tomatoes and zucchini as I could carry. The choice was limited, but there was tuna in the dry goods section. There was a Lunchable pizza kit in the fridge. One of the loaves of bread looked good for French toast.
“Next, let’s try the friendship room,” I said as I got into the car. “Sometimes they don’t have anything in the free pantry, but sometimes you’re lucky.”
We were lucky.
Outside the Little Free Grocery cupboard with its canned cereal and soup was a large large box overflowing with bagged salad and another large box overflowing with tangerines. My friend filled a shopping bag with produce and took other dry goods. She had enough for the weekend now, if she was careful. His partner is paid on the 20th. We will see the rest on Monday.
We drove back to his apartment, the whole car stuffed full of treasures. She unloaded in front of her building: the food bank bag, the diapers, the toiletries, the oranges and salad, the stroller. Finally, the bike.
The look on his son’s face melted away all my stress and anxiety.
“Merry Christmas!” I said, and Rose and I left to do the rest of our shopping.
“Can you express?” Rose asked.
“Yes, I can express,” I said. We said it was Christmas and the kids in the dollhouse were having a snowball fight.
It really was like Christmas.
Oh come let’s adore him, oh come let’s adore him, oh come let’s adore him, the Lord Christ. He alone has the bread. He alone gives the bread. The rest of us just move it around.
Image via Pixabay