“Okay ladies! Here we go, it’s that time.”
“Ohhhhh maaaaaaaan! Again? Alright, alright.”
Ladies who’ve made themselves at home on benches throughout our back patio space get up slowly, the way my grandmother did, grunting and groggy from relaxation. Their arms bend slower than usual, they are weary from the life that ages them, life outside.
Tracy scrambles to pack her things up, really she is just making a mess. We go through this every day.
“Tracy, you gotta be kidding me. You know what time we close, what are you doing?” I laugh to lighten the mood but inside I am impatient and frustrated. It’s true every day she is the last one to leave but the first one I tell to grab her stuff. Tracy struggles with alcohol and other drugs, she lives with mental illness.
B is talking to herself in sentences that make no sense to me but she bops her head back and forth, waves her hand about, pulls her pants up over her behind and tries to pack her things. Today a co-worker notices that her belly is a little bigger than usual. She seems to be pregnant, she is in the grips of addiction, she lives with mental illness and now she seems to be pregnant. Our hearts break as we know that the way this happened was likely traumatic.
“Nah girl, that’s my bike.” Ashley giggles, she knows her bike should not be where she stowed it, we don’t have the space for it but she doesn’t have the money to buy a lock.
“Ashley, you break these rules all the time and I can’t help but smile at you, what’s up with that?”
“It’s because I’m so cute and you love me. “ She’s right.
R walks out with her 10 month old baby, the light of my day. “Okay, but wait, Shannon, before I go can you tell me if the shelter will let me other kids in too?”
I ask her to come see me tomorrow for more of a talk. I take her son, into my arms and squeeze him tight, we scream little screams together, he steals my glasses off of my face and I tell him he’s just the best and I love him.
Out the back gate they all go. 10 months old to 50+, they wander into the afternoon which turns into the dark and lonely night.
I hope with all my might that they come back tomorrow.
This is often the hardest part of our work at Maryhouse, harnessing hope when it seems often like there just isn’t enough to go around.