On the way to dinner the other night, we turned down a street and my mother said, "Hey Julie, look at those apartments right there---they just built them..."
And I said, "Are they full?"
Which she misheard, unsurprisingly considering the amount of noise six children can make, and said, "No, no they aren't for the poor, it isn't subsidized housing, I think anyone can live there."
Which caused my sister to say, "Are you telling your HOMELESS daughter about alternative housing possibilities?"
We laughed---a little at my mother for misunderstanding, and a little at me for the homeless thing.
See, the homeless thing is a joke. It came from this whole incident at the school, when I tried to register my kids for temporary enrollment.
When I went by the local school to see about sending the kids there until our school district opens, they handed me a form that I had to sign, declaring myself homeless, so that my mother---with whom we are staying---could be declared our host, so that we qualified to enroll in the school.
It seemed wrong.
I protested, "But we aren't homeless," I said, "We're just very temporarily displaced. I could go back," I explained, "Except I want them to have as normal a life as possible right now."
"Oh but if you're declared homeless you can get the breakfast and lunch for the kids," the lady said.
"But I brought their lunch kits, and I already have breakfast and lunch food at home," I said.
"Well this has got to be so expensive already," she said, confused by my protests," You don't want to spend money you don't have to." She shoved the form back at me.
I don't want homeless status. I don't want the school to feed my kids. I am providing for them. I can provide for them.
We are lucky.
My husband has a job, we have insurance, my mother is generously and comfortably hosting us. We have other generous offers from others who want to help if we need.
We are lucky.
We do not need to take resources, such as free lunches at the school.
If I needed to, I would.
But just in that moment, I felt it: that loss of status, that sucking up of pride. I built a new empathy for people in this position. People not in my fortunate privileged position, people like me who can say no thanks.
I, unlike some in my town, still have a house. My house is still there, and despite wind and water damage, and a power company cherry picker that sunk in our still sodden yard, it is habitable.
Although the power company said another three weeks to power up my area, because we are on the same grid with essential services (in this case, a lifting station and a pumping station---those are to do with water and wastewater for the record) we may get power back as early as this week.
My husband said crews were still clearing trees, but had begun freeing power lines, stringing power lines and working hard to get power restored, all day every day.
So I am hopeful we can return home sooner rather than later.
My husband went to cruise our small town and said quite a few houses are completely gone, others look like a blast blew through them and the frame is mostly there, but the interior is missing. The water has mostly receded, but it left debris, and a lot of marine life died. He said the stench is dreadful.
We are lucky.
That's why the homeless thing is both so funny and not funny at all.
All things considered, I have thought of myself as fortunate. And yet, in that moment, that woman thought of me as poor.
It makes you think. It makes your mind open. It makes you realize about perceptions and circumstances and you and others and everything.