By Rosalie Tirella

This morning Cece has taken over.

❤️ photos: R.T.

Lilac looks old (she’s around 8 yrs). I look old (I’m 61). Rough 17 months, in the rear view mirror but not forgotten: my two dogs and I as homeless as the original family in the original Christmas story! Go away! You’re too poor! No room in our Inn for you! Take a hike, Joseph and Mary – we don’t care if Mary’s pregnant (with Jesus). Good luck, Rose! Try and stay warm!

Last winter … Worcester’s homeless… Millbury Street.

Me…In my car, last year, Christmas time, seeing in the dead of a Worcester winter night all the homeless folks sleeping on the sidewalks in the Canal District, Vernon Hill and Downtown Worcester. Unwanted. Shunned. Treated like refuse. Driving around my city and seeing the suffering. I remember shedding a few tears as I thought of their situation and our situation: Rose, Jett and Lilac in Rose’s car. Rose addressing her Christmas cards in her car, in a parking lot at night, the December snow falling down and looking pretty against the street light. The Star of Bethlehem?

The crumby motel rooms. The pleasant motel rooms. Organizing the stuff in my car trunk – like I was organizing my personal stuff in this bedroom! My family snubbing us. Friends sympathetic but unwilling to open their doors. Unlike the Blessed Mary or Saint Joseph, I reacted in a very human way – my heart has hardened. I see people bustling with their trees and mistletoe and flat screen TVs and they’re dead to me. They clutch their Play Stations and Apple computer watches and fancy sneakers and Christmas feels far away …

It’s about needing love, needing community…not avarice. The human race usually falls short.


This holiday season I look back at my homeless “journey” – and remember the only person who personified Christmas for me, the only person who opened her home to me, gave me respite in her “inn”: Edith Morgan, CECELIA contributing writer for several years (p.4), former Worcester School Committee member, former foster parent and retired reading teacher (the Shrewsbury public schools). Edith isn’t a dog person, so I had to board my pups, but she was the only person who made a little bed for me in a spare room in her home and said, Stay a week or two. Two or three times. She was the only person who gave me a pillow for my head and sore neck and blankets for warmth and night gown. I hadn’t slept in a night gown in weeks! And she gave me bedroom slippers! Edith lectured me … a bit too often and severely, in my opinion, but she also taught me how to use a French press to make my morning coffee. I could open her refrigerator door whenever I wanted to and nosh on the cheese and grapes in her fridge. I could eat bowls of her bran flakes and pour real cream into my cups of coffee and watch the Rachel Maddow show with Edith at night in her living room. The radio in Edith’s living room was tuned to a classical music station all day, and it soothed my soul and provided the background music to Edith’s daily life: writing stories on her computer upstairs, getting ready to go out to various local political meetings, unpacking bags of groceries after going out shopping with her late husband, Guy – a real sweetie. Edith trusted me with her house, her stuff, her gifts, her dishware, her records, her family photos, her Christmas candy, everything. Decades ago, a dad in her neighborhood had thrown his unruly son out of his house. Goodbye! You’re too much for this family! … Edith let the teen live with her. Gave him a bed, meals, guidance …

Edith in her garden.

It is hard to open up your personal space to a non-relative, a “stranger.” I know I couldn’t do it! To have another human – an interloper – in my path! No way! And I was homeless! Edith transcends the stupid prejudices, is bigger than stuff and safeguarding stuff. For her, it’s about experiencing life, learning, teaching, meeting people, supporting kids, celebrating community. She’s a cool old hippie in her mid-90s! She still digs and hoes in her urban garden outside her house. She still cooks and watches her weight. She has a best friend that she’s known for more than a half a century. She eats an apple a day She writes beautifully and is thoughtful about everything.

So this Christmas I’ll never forget Edith Morgan and her understanding and goodness.

Oh, Holy Night!