December 30, 2006

nothing like an eviction before new years

my friend called yesterday to let me know that some friends of ours in her neighborhood were being evicted. As evictions go, this was one of those in-denial-little-warning kind, where the sheriff shows up with the eviction team and the family shakes and stammers while they try to figure out what to do as they watch their stuff pile up with a thump on their driveway one early afternoon in December.

It's not my business to know how it got so bad--been close enough to bad to know how it can sneak up on you even when you should have been able to see it coming with a blindfold on. Apparently the couple once owned the house, then it got bad, then they quick claimed it, then the new 'owner' sold it, and you know, sometimes bad goes from bad to worse until a twelve-year-old girl shows up on your porch and asks if you know any one with a truck.

We all helped out yesterday, massive box taping and packing--or shoving stuff haphazardly into cartons, more like--in the middle of a suburban driveway in the middle of a middle class++ neighborhood on the Friday before New Year's. The neighbors, their church friends, the eviction team. Everyone except the Sheriff, who I suppose isn't there to help but to enforce. He was there to make sure that the new stove the mom got for her birthday stayed with the house under protest, and the new fridge the couple bought to replace the one that wasn't working stayed with the house, over much insistence otherwise. Le's say: They fought the law and the law won.

What I noticed among the literal rubble was the importance of simple things in an emergency--like a few rolls of packing tape. Like a neighbor's saved boxes from their move-in six months ago. Like a case of bottled water.

The other amazing thing was how fast their church stepped in to help. I don't know the church they attend, but I mean, they mobilized fast, not just with helpers for packing and loading, but with keys to a house, with heat and water and beds and linens, that someone in the congregation was moving out of and selling. By nightfall, we were at that house, hanging the family's clothes in the closets, making a temporary home for five people without one.

Of course, there is always more to the story--like the denial that brings the bottom to us when we most need to hit it but don't want to, like the antidepressants that don't take away the need to feel better as we medicate by whatever means--even spending and hoarding--and like what happens when the walls fall in and we wonder how they got so weak to begin with, like how the middle in America is disintegrating. You could ponder it for hours.

But when someone's kid's Baptism dress is laying in a heap on the driveway in front of you, none of that matters. What matters is assembling collapsed boxes as fast as you can, trying to decide what to shove in them, taping them up and passing them toward the truck. What matters is the bottled water you grabbed on the way over to give to the guys loading the truck. What matters is the quick thinking that gets shelter for a family with no place to go. What matters is friends.

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