During the years I was living in my car, the trunk was pretty large and was always packed full with everything I owned. In the bottom, folded neatly under all the rest were my rugs; old and worn, handmade Armenian rugs of different sizes and patterns and colors.
Whenever I was going to be somewhere for more than a couple nights, I would pull at least one or two rugs out and put them down. The space above the rugs was special because I had shared food and drink on them, because they were rich with history and artistry, caring and craftsmanship. They brought civility to me wherever I was, no matter how dire. The cheapest wine and most processed food from any ghetto bodega was transformed into a civilized meal.
I had bought the rugs years earlier from my friend at his shop in Upper Manhattan in New York City, when I had a job and some money. I would go uptown to his shop on 54th and Lexington and we would drink tea or coffee or wine and eat grape leaves and olives and hummus.
Two years ago when I left Arizona to return to San Francisco, my little car just wasn’t up to the trip across the desert, so, sadly, I left her behind and took the train. But, while I missed the car that had been my home, I also lost almost all the things that created the feeling of my home for me. With the car went the trunk and everything I carried in it. All I could bring on Amtrak were two suitcases, a shoulder bag and my purse.
I had gone from living in my car to “really and truly homeless.” And with it an absence of space, of protection, of quiet and escape from the roughness of the world. When my homelessness ended a year and a half ago, I had an apartment! It was and is wonderful, but empty; it only had my suitcases and three boxes of household supplies that a veterans organization had given me.
I then had space: it was protective but it wasn’t home. I had none of the things I had previously used to create the feeling of home. Even though I had acquired items, none had come from my old life. None of them had enough of my energy and history to it feel special or like home yet.
A couple months ago I was able to buy a little van, and had enough money to go back to Arizona and retrieve the few remaining things I had left behind, and most especially my rugs. I piled them in my van and drove back home, here, to San Francisco and my apartment here which gradually has become it’s own sacred space. My home feels complete now, old with new. And now, my newest space is my little van which on its floor has one of my Armenian rugs.