On My Mind

Amy, The Homeless Grandmother

March 10th, 2013 by Julie Silver

amy2In the last couple of years, our family has gotten to know a homeless woman named Amy who stands at the corner of PCH and Sunset every morning, asking drivers for food.  Sometimes she walks up and down the lines of traffic, and sometimes we see her at the bus stop in front of Gladstone’s with her friends.  The traffic light there is a long one, so there’s plenty of time strike up a quick conversation. Amy has been more than willing to share her life’s story with us. She has 12 grandchildren. She’s from Atlanta. She has a sweet tooth. She wants to get back into the good graces of her family.

Last year at Christmas, Sarah decided she wanted to give Amy a care package including among many things a bag of dog food for Amy’s little dog and a handwritten Christmas card. We carried the bag in the car with us for days without seeing Amy which made me worry, but which appeared to give Sarah a bit of hope: “Maybe her kids came and picked her up,” Sarah would say “so she’ll have a nice place with her family to celebrate Christmas.”

“Maybe, Sarah.  Maybe.” I replied.

Sitting at the light, staring at sparkling waves in front of me, I started to believe it myself.  Maybe she IS somewhere better than this place.  Maybe her family HAS found her.

On the morning we headed out to the airport to fly to New York for Christmas, we decided we had to give the care package to someone on the corner, anyone who might be able to get Sarah’s gifts to Amy. We gave the bag to a homeless man, with Sarah yelling directions at this poor guy from the back seat, “That’s for Amy and her dog! Make sure she gets it before Christmas!”

We drove off. Sarah asked, “Do you think she’ll get it, Eema?”

“I think so, Sarah.”

But of course I was dubious. I figured the guy would eat the food, drink the water and toss the rest. After all, I’ve been around the block. I know how these homeless people operate.

Cut to yesterday. I took a walk down to the water and ran into, you guessed it, our friend Amy from Atlanta whom we haven’t seen since November.

“Hi Amy!”

She popped up from the sidewalk where she was sitting with her little dog and another woman who was wrapped in a blanket and ran to me.

“Hey hey hey, it’s you! I’ve been lookin’ for you!  I gotta show you somethin’! I’ve been hopin’ to see you and that little girl of yours. He gave me the bag. He said it was a little girl with long hair and he said he didn’t remember but I knew it was your little baby Sarah I just knew it. Tell her I got the bag. Oh and I gotta show y’all somethin’.”

She reached into her back pocket and pulled out a brown imitation leather wallet. Inside, I saw one or two dollar bills and nothing much else but then she pulled out a worn, graying piece of white paper that looked like it had been hidden in there for years. She unfolded it and showed it to me. It was Sarah’s Christmas card.

“Oh my God, I can’t believe you kept it,” I said. “Sarah is going to be so happy that the bag got to you. May I take a picture to show her?”

“That little girl is a BLESSING,” she said, holding up the paper and posing. “I’m gonna keep this forever. I love that little girl of yours.  You tell Sarah I kept this and I’m always gonna keep it.”

We stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity until I finally said “Well, Sarah teaches me every day how to care about people. Honestly, I didn’t think you were going to get that bag, but Sarah had faith that somehow you’d get it. It’s going to make her day that you still have her card.”

She removed the enormous sunglasses that have been hiding her tired eyes since the day we met and clutched my forearm.

“Honey, this card made my whole Christmas.”