Christmas Years Ago

It was years ago – many but not so many she does not recall the feelings of shame and embarrassment.  This time of year she usually can push these memories out of her mind but for some reason, this year she cannot.

She had still not found a full time job other than working at the local shipping store.  She was making minimum wage but it was not enough with six kids to feed and all their needs.  Kids under 13 tend to outgrow things all the time.  To keep them in jeans and shoes, boots and winter coats was difficult.

On top of that, she did not feel like she could turn down hours at work and so she was paying for babysitting at night while she worked as late as the store needed her.  The kids needed her, too, but at this point in time, money was important.  He never took the kids that first year or two.  Even after that, he seldom took them all at once.  She never had down time, just work or mom time.

The day care owner approached her that day with an odd look on her face.  They knew each other outside of the day care setting as they also went to the same church.  She wanted to have the ladies’ group at church adopt her family for Christmas.  “Here is what was needed,” the provider explained.

“Could she think this over,” she asked the provider.  She did not want to appear to be looking a gift horse in the mouth but she just didn’t like taking hand outs.  That spring had sealed it for her.  She had gone to DSS to apply for food stamps.  The hardest question was about the car.  Yes, a car that was not in her name but in his.  Yes, a car that she drove still but could not sell and that was what they were asking her to do.  They thought she should sell the car to feed her kids.  Well, if it came to that, she would find a way but then, how would she get to work?

“Isn’t that counterproductive,” she asked the case worker.  Evidently not as the case worker ignored her question.  The case worker just spoke of that as a male power trip.  The appointment was embarrassing in itself.  She would get through it, though, for the kids.  Eventually, she managed to get a second appointment and some emergency aid.  This helped as the job she had at that time was not even full time.

The summer wore into fall and then winter.  The job went from 10 hours a week to 30 to 45.  She and the kids had moved twice due to rent being too much.  She really liked this newest place and hoped the kids did also.  The food stamps, which really helped as she could buy food that was good for the kids – fresh fruits, fresh veggies and something other than frozen meats.  Christmas was coming as Thanksgiving had just passed.

Then came the request from the day care provider.  Could she endure more embarrassment so that the kids would have a good holiday?  Could she put her pride aside one more time?  How could she say no?  How could she say yes?

She slowly decided that she had no choice.  What she was making, even working 45 to 50 hours a week, all went to utilities, rent, insurance.  She didn’t have a penny left for gifts.  She really wanted to send out Christmas cards, to make everyone think this was fine.  She couldn’t do that either.

She talked longer with the day care provider.  She took a list home with her.  She needed to get clothing sizes and a toy want from each child.  She needed to list something she would want.

When the call came that it was all at the day care provider’s home to pick up, she didn’t know what to do.  The suggestion was to come to the back door.  Her husband would help load the car so she could take the church gifts home and hide them before coming back to pick up the kids.  A solid plan except when she got to the day care provider’s, there was not enough room for all the gifts in her car.  It didn’t matter.  She was crying so hard she probably shouldn’t drive right away anyhow.

The day care provider rethought what was going to happen.  She put the kids in her client’s car and told her to call when they were asleep that night.  Her husband would drive the gifts over to the house.

The gifts were wonderful.  The kids all received a book, a toy, a new outfit.  She even received some clothing, a nightgown.  The surprise was all the day in, day out household supplies that came with the gifts.  There was food.  There was a gift certificate for a local grocery.  There was cleaning supplies, laundry detergent.

Christmas that year had been saved from the clutches of defeat, her defeat of feeling she couldn’t do it.  Christmas had come despite her lacking, or so she thought.

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