once upon a time when I was homeless

Updated: Dec 27, 2020

I was trying to convince myself to take a chance on something. I cannot remember what, but I like to challenge myself in times when I have considered something to be risky by asking "What's the worse that could happen?" I would always tell myself "You've always had food to eat, you've never been homeless!" Then I'd get pumped up and make a decision.

On this occasion in particular, when I declared "I've always had food to eat, I've never been homeless the Heckler in my head yelled back "Yes you were!" The Heckler, a comedian in my head who keeps me honest, sit's in the audience of my mind and sometimes interrupts my deep meaningful thoughts with something loud, rude and funny, sometimes I think he's drunk! He usually shows up late in the middle of my thoughts, interrupting the show to tell me to stop taking myself so seriously. Today he was in the dark corner of my mind, eating popcorn and bringing me a truth about my life that I had had escaped me for many years, that there was a time I was without a home.

It was 1976. I remember because there were Bicentennial commercials and ads everywhere. My father and I had taken our dogs, Duke and Duchess, out for the usual Saturday evening run. When we came back, I took the dog's inside the house and my father detoured next door to our neighbor's home where he often played cards. At that time we lived on State Street in downtown Brooklyn above my Grandparents church.


Most of my New York family lived in this house. My aunt, cousins, uncle, grandparents and my great uncle Henry. In my young mind I believed that my great uncle Henry was a freed slave and that he was at least 100 years old or more. I would deliver pieces of aluminum foil to him from my mother. He would then produce a giant ball of foil and take the foil I'd given him and place it over the ball. Thus increasing his foil ball. I think he thought it was silver.


My mother and I came home one day to find him dead, at the entrance of the church. Just sitting on a chair. It looked as though he just got tired and sat down in the chair to rest. I looked up in his face and told my mother, he's dead. My mother shook him a bit but he didn't wake up and for some strange reason I was wasn't frightened by the scene. This was in my house with four generations of family. I was rarely afraid of much back then.

But then our house burned down.


There was a rack of coats set up inside the church. My grandparents would give coats to people who were in need during the winter season. Somehow there was an electrical something as I was told and the coats caught fire. I remember that night vividly. My cousin died in that fire. He was 17. Our dogs died in that fire. For my father and his sister, this would be their second fire. The first one almost killed them both. They both spent months hospitalized as children recovering from heat burns. They both would require skin graphs. My father on his hands up to his elbows and my aunt on her upper legs. On the day of the fire she wore a skirt that left her legs exposed and my father a short sleeve shirt. They lived with those scars all of their lives.


This was fire number two. My whole family had to find different places to sleep that night and for the next several months a place to live. We no longer had our home.

Our neighbor owned the apartment building next door. He had a room available on the top floor in his building. We slept in that one room, my mother, father and myself in one bed and my sister on a cot next to the bed. Nothing else was in that room but a sink. There was a bathroom but I think it was just a toilet.


The fire took place just before thanksgiving and about three weeks later my parents got us into a new home, settled us in and on Christmas Eve we decorated our first Christmas Tree in our new home. When we were done my father put on Nat King Cole's Christmas Song, turned out the lights and with my sister and I on either side of our parents, we all stood holding hands, looking at the tree, while my mother and father cried, quietly repeating "we did it, we did it".


I can only guess the tremendous expansion of the human spirit that allowed my parents to do what they did that winter of 76'. I never missed school, I never went hungry and I never ever considered that I was homeless for any length of time because of who my parents were. They just didn't advocate for that side of the truth. It took me 40 years to realize that for a brief time I was without a home.

This year has expanded us beyond our comfort zones, stretched us in ways we could not imagine, we will never return to the same form. I invite you to acknowledge this journey in human expansion and to celebrate it. Decide what truth will you advocate for. I hope it will be something really powerful something that will have you look back on this year and say we did it! we did it!


In honor of George and Claudia.


Holiday Blessings to you and your families!

Love Jill

P.S

Join me for a Spiritual and Emotional Detox as we let 2020 Burn! Click below for info: https://www.jillflowers.com/so/53NQMw1Hf?languageTag=en

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