Tuesday, June 27, 2017
SLICE OF LIFE
I saw them for the first time sometime in May. There is a big recycling dumpster at City Park, only about a mile from my house. Sometimes when our recycling gets too out of control, I go over there and put big stuff- detergent bottles, cardboard boxes, broken rubbermaid bins- into the dumpster. That day, I was on my way to Colorado Springs and ran by the dumpster. The little SUV was parked close by and as I pulled up a man, probably in his late 40's or early 50's, was pulling a blue employee shirt from the local amusement park over his head. We commented on the weather, that it would be a nice day to be outside, and went our separate ways.
I saw them again on Sunday night. I was walking across the park, headed back from City Park Jazz, when the car pulled up. This time, a man and woman got out. He was carrying a blue plastic tarp, and she had two buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Between the two of them, they tied the tarp to the trees, creating kind of a makeshift tent, set out quilts and pillows, and sat down to eat. The cargo on top of the car included several smaller backpacks, in pinks and purples. They looked like the ones that get stuffed into the lockers at my school every day. In my head, I made up a story about the children that belonged to the backpacks. One of the two adults must be a stepparent. The children are not part of this roaming caravan, instead they are living somewhere else. And then I saw a teenage girl, maybe 15 or 16, get out of the car, take some chicken and return to the car. I wondered if she was embarrassed to be seen, or maybe she was just tired of living in such close quarters.
I saw them again tonight. I was walking at the park, and not quite dusk. The family hadn't laid out their camping gear yet, evidently they were all sitting in the car. As I was walking by, the same teenage girl got out of the car, reached up and tugged a backpack off of the roof of the car. She set it on the ground and I marveled that she could find anything in such close quarters.
I can't stop thinking about the family from Pennsylvania. I wonder how they got here. I want to know their story. How long they have been living in the car. Whether the father is still working at Elitches. Whether the mom works. What they do all day. What they eat. What they will do when school starts. When the weather gets cold. How they will ever be able to afford an apartment or home in Denver, where it's so expensive right now.
I can't stop thinking about the family in the car.