Submitted by Bob Warfield, Lakewood.
I parked in a vacant space in front of the former gym, now vacant, next to the Lakewood Goodwill. Entering the store, I noticed a shopping cart, dressed with the customary accumulation of forlorn hope. Left under the intersecting corner eve, it suggested its trusting owner was in the store. I entered, collected two proper wine glasses from a shelf filled with glassware and re-traced the aisles through the linear maze of racked clothing to the active register in the front of the store. There, I found myself waiting behind an elderly patron, her curious gathering of children’s clothing, un-hangered on the counter.
Her standing profile was severely curved beyond a dowager’s provenance toward hyperkyphosis. Dressed in dark pink slacks and a color-matched rose pattern cotton blouse, with evident concentration she worked the contents of a coin purse, re-counting, and finally extracting bills to cover her purchase. Her bare feet, long past pedicure, soled with compressed flip-flops of matching pink accent, completed a portrait of stylish penury.
The clerk asked whether she wanted to round-up to twenty-five dollars to benefit Goodwill. I had to restrain myself from intrusion, as it seemed obvious that her cash approached depletion for garments of little apparent use. She acquiesced, handing the clerk a twenty and a five. Then, with further calculation, she folded in the three or four singles remaining, closed the purse, collected her treasures un-bagged, and headed for the door.
My brief transaction for two wine glasses concluded moments later, and I was out the door. Rounding the front of Goodwill, I was briefly arrested by the sight and suddenly realized association of the elderly woman who preceded me at the register, and the shopping cart, waiting to wheel her fortune into the remainder of the day, piled with clothing. I wondered whether all of it was sized to fit a child.
I watched with saddened wonder at her stories untold as slowly she pushed her memories across the parking expanse toward the street. This is the face of homeless. Unmoored humanity. Adrift. Alone. Somebody’s neighbor. Somebody’s mother.