Street woman’s demeanor suggests more than stereotype

Street woman's demeanor suggests more than stereotype MyStoryYourStory By Paula Damon She wore her entire summer wardrobe all at once. She had every single article of clothing on at the same time layered one on top of the other. Underneath a loosely fitting sleeveless shell was a plaid percale smock. Beneath her smock was an oversized T-shirt, once white now grayish from lack of washing. Under the T-shirt, she wore a long-sleeved paisley dress. It had a button down collar that she pulled up around her neck, giving her face a varnished finish amid her otherwise tussled appearance. The cuffs on her sleeves were not rolled up but buttoned around her wrists. Her dress was baggy and sagged down nearly to her ankles. On her feet were heavy leather work boots that she had laced up tightly below her shins. The elastic in her thick gray athletic socks was all tired out from yanking them as high as she could. She wore an oversized ball cap fastened with long hairpins on either side of her head and one on the back. Dingy cotton gloves covered her hands â�?�? the kind woman would wear years ago in church or to afternoon tea. Of course, her appearance as a street person was unmistakable. The filmy and rustled texture of her apparel. The leathery look of her weathered skin. Her tired gate followed the grocery cart that dragged her from garbage receptacles to dumpsters for discarded food and from nooks to crannies for safe haven. Her disposition was less obvious. On occasion when my path crossed hers, I worked at disregarding the outward signs of her homelessness. I wanted to see indicators that she had emerged as a free spirit â�?�? one who had broken loose from every last chain that held her captive. Passing her on the street, I could see a glimmer in her eyes as we exchanged glances. Contradicting her physical appearance was a look of knowing something greater. A smile rounding the corners of her mouth hinted at more than her exterior would let onto. A peaceful, somewhat playful expression surfaced amid murmuring conversations with herself. There was a contented recklessness about this street woman who had been a fixture in downtown Sioux City back in the 1970s. It was as though she had finally shed the sorry state into which the rest of the world had boxed her. Hostage no longer she was now in control. She was finally in a place where there was no rent due and no one to answer to. She lived her life on the street, wearing her wardrobe on her back, pushing a shopping cart, which contained all of her belongings, finding rest in alleyways and doorways. Regardless of her disarray, there was togetherness about her. In spite of her broken appearance, she possessed a wholeness that I cannot quite describe. A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place in Iowa Press Women and National Federation of Press Women competitions. Damonâ�?�?s columns took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 and 2008 Communications Contests. For more information, e-mail paulada mon@iw.net. 2008�?© Paula Damon

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