A Spaghetti Dinner
Not long after we had fled our roach infested burnt to a cinder Minnesota apartment were we on the road again. We had started our journey from Rocklin California up through southern Oregon then straight east through Montana, Wyoming & Yellowstone national park. Sleeping in our extended cab GMC truck.
Well most of us slept inside the truck. I was forced to sleep outside the truck bed with all our possessions. With boxes piled high on all sides of me it was easy for me to slip deep into the junk into a sorta make shift cave. I'd sink down into my sleeping bag, zip it up as tight as possible and cover my whole head minus a tiny crack for air and a place for me to stare at the stars and moon.
I remember the sounds of wildlife howling, squawking and snarling in the night air. The icy chill of adrenaline making all my hairs stand up. The crisp smell of fog and the snap of frozen dew. Finally the deep inky purple skies. The moon was amazing! I felt like it had a hypnotic power over me. All alone in this exposed pickup truck bed at 11yrs old it was this glorious moon that would lock eyes with me and slowly my fears would subside as I'd fall asleep.
This was the common experience for me when we were on the road. I was typically forced to sleep outside either in the pickup bed or if it was raining particularly hard inside a makeshift tent or under a tarp to keep guard of our possessions in boxes.
By the time we had left Minnesota my mother had given away almost everything I owned. All except my briefcase my grandpa Neil had given me. I guarded this thing with my life! On our journey eastward and north we drove through Montreal and parked at a tiny Canadian rest area in the woods. This time my stepfather had me sleep in the tent to guard our possessions at the rest area while they parked the truck some distance away. I remember thinking how nice it was that I could finally use the bathroom whenever I felt like this evening. It rained a relentless rain almost all night. I curled up into a ball in another makeshift cave I constructed with the boxes then fell asleep. I woke only once in the night to a hovering sound like I've never heard. The tent started to flutter then shake. The whooshing sound grew louder and louder. A dim light now surrounded the tent. Then as suddenly as it appeared it went away.
The next morning I tried describing the sound and light to my sisters but they were parked some distance from my tent so they never saw a thing. We piled all our effects back into the bed of the truck and this time my stepfather decided there was no longer room for me to be in the truck cabin. I was to stay outside in the truck bed day and night hidden amongst the boxes and junk indefinitely. At this point I remember it getting really cold both during the day and especially at night. My sleeping bag was no longer keeping me warm enough to sleep. So I tried to sleep more during the day while we traveled since I was too cold to sleep at night. Then one particular evening we drove late into the night I remember being told to get out of the truck bed.
I saw the back entrance to what looked like a school gym. There was a small line of people and I could smell garlic bread! We had arrived at a Salvation Army soup kitchen. We were herded up stairs into a gymnasium where as far as my eyes could see was smiling faces. There was a large row of tables and everyone was eating spaghetti from blue plastic bowls. They even had fruit punch in red dixie cups and the adults were huddled by the coffee makers.
I remember going through the line multiple times and how each time they filled my bowl to the brim! Finally after we were literally stuffed they led us to our sleeping quarters. We each got our own blanket, pillow and a cot. After we had selected a bed they showed us to the designated showering area and told us the downstairs was off limits to kids.
Lying in my warm and cozy cot, freshly showered in my new hand me down clothes and my stomach swelling with Spaghetti I felt content. It was a simple happiness I had never paid any attention to before. My basic needs at this moment were being met and it felt amazing.
Thinking back on this story this wasn't our first experience with charity nor would it be the last but this was the most important. Years later I would end up working for a short time as a youth minister/music director/food bank operator at a Salvation Army and while it was brief it felt like home.
There's a funny thing about life that's so easy to take for granted. That simple and sometimes not so subtle feeling you get after your evening meal. The feeling of satisfaction. We all deserve to know this warmth and comfort on a daily basis but it's only when it's removed from us do we really notice it's power.
Today I feel thankful, thankful and happy to be alive. I know hunger but I also have the means to fill that hunger. It doesn't mean that all is at peace with the world but it does mean that you're at least ready to say peace to the day as you goto sleep.
Thank you so much for reading 📖