Friday, September 5, 2014
Butterflies Fly (Tale from the Streets)
She looked up nervously as she wet paper towels in the sink of the seedy gas station on the west end of Houston. The time was 8pm, which was one hour too late to get admitted and given a bed at the homeless shelter three blocks away. She had tried to make it, but with no money for the bus and a toddler along with a infant to carry, she had been that hour late. So, now the three of them would have to find some place to sleep tonight...on the streets.
Her baby was asleep curled up in a tattered blanket on the dirty floor as she was trying to clean up her children the best way she could. Finding the sliver of soap in her big handbag, she unwrapped it from the baggie and lathered up the paper towels. Her oldest sat on the diaper changing fold-out table and he was holding that damn sticker.
One of the volunteers at the last shelter they had stayed at and then been released from when they hit their 60-day stay limit, had given him the Butterfly sticker. It was bent and some of the color was coming off of it, but to her son, it was a treasure. She sighed as she moved over to tug off his dirty shirt, sniffing it to see if it could be worn again. Deciding that it could, she set it to the side and did the same with his shorts. Then she proceeded to wipe him down, trying to get some of the grime and sweat from his skin after walking and trying to waste away the day, eating lunch at the soup kitchen at the mission. She had been planning on staying there, but they hit their bed max early, which left her scrambling to the shelter across town. Houston was not a small town.
As she wiped down her son, ears on alert for one of the store clerks to come in and threaten to call the cops or kick them out, she asked softly, "Yes baby?"
"Can I be a butterfly?"
She stopped her wiping him down to meet his eyes, confusion on her face. "A butterfly? Why? You're a little boy, silly." She gave him an exhausted smile as she ran the paper towel through his hair, hating that it was so dry and needed a shampooing really bad. She hated seeing him dirty and his clothes well-worn before she had even been able to buy them from the thrift shop with the little bit of money she managed to get either panhandling or offering to carry groceries. People tended not to hire a homeless woman--much less one with two children. As she was pulling his t-shirt back over his head, brown hair and big brown eyes popping out of the top, he smiled at her as he held up the sticker.
"Because butterflies can fly, mommie." He poked her nose with his finger, the nails black with dirt under them and gave her another wide smile.
She cupped his face, meeting his eyes and returned the smile, saying softly, "Why do you want to fly baby? Aren't you happy being my little boy?"
He nodded and said softly, "I love being your little boy. But I've never seen a butterfly have to sleep on the streets. Because they can fly to a new home."
That did it, fat tears cascaded down her cheeks as she scooped him up to hold him close. "Oh baby. You can't fly away from me. Mommie would miss you. Bubby too." She hated crying and fought against doing it constantly. She wanted her boys to see that she was strong and this was only a moment of bad luck, not a life of it. As she pulled back to meet his eyes, he brought up a small, thin hand to wipe away her tears.
"It's okay Mommie. I'll teach you and bubby how to fly too. Just you wait and see...."