Christmas is upon us and Thanksgiving hasn’t even reached us yet. I’m not huge on celebrating Thanksgiving. I grew up like most American kids, we ate food we couldn’t afford and got together with other small parts of our family; adults avoided difficult topics of conversation while us kids ran around their legs screaming, laughing and sometimes crying. There were only four kids and six adults. We’re a small family but we felt big on the holidays. At some point, I’m not sure when, Krank Ficken effectively pulled my mother away from her family’s traditions. Abusers tend to do that: Separate and control. By the time I was a teen I was accustomed to spending holidays at home with the four of us but mom always made the best of it with things like putting the leaves in the table and setting it in the center of the living room so we could eat and watch a movie together.
Now, with a family of my own, I barely remember to buy the turkey on time. I have no spirit for Thanksgiving. I find it a waste of time, money, energy and stress. I think the decorations are pointless if you live in a state where the seasons only change twice a year: hot to chilly and back again. Cut outs of New England autumn leaves for decorations in Texas is beyond silly. Especially where I live. We have mesquite, banana and palm trees. Their “leaves” have two shades: dying and dead. My favorite part of Thanksgiving is the next day when I get to eat cold carved turkey sandwiches and store bought cheesecake.
We started Christmas shopping– yes; I say Christmas even though I’m agnostic. I have a Christmas tree and I even say “Merry Christmas” to people I don’t know!
I’m so freaked out because we still don’t know how much our rent will be or when it will go up. I’m really on edge right now and I think that’s why I’ve been shut off from most of my emotions. This is certainly new for me. I’m usually a wreck when it comes to stress but I guess I’ve learned how to block it? Haha– I did it for the safety of my family’s sanity.
I was positive our rent would go up last month but we never got a letter. I was sure the letter would come within the first week of November but it hasn’t. I’m so terrified to find out the little we’ve spent on Christmas was a little too much. I keep telling myself that won’t happen because that would mean we’d be short on rent every month. Housing will only count 50% of Kasper’s income until a year from now when they start counting all of it. Maybe by then he’ll make too much for housing (is that possible on $10/hour part time plus my measly $800 in SDI?)
This apartment, which is public housing and not subsidized by section 8, is actually worth around $1,200/month. We pay $200 with my disability. It’s not the ghetto, per se, but it isn’t pretty. Three stabbings, two shootings (one murder) and a handful of robberies isn’t too bad in the four years we’ve been here. I’ve definitely seen worse. All I keep thinking about is getting out of here and ending up somewhere worse for my kids. $1,200/month is a lot of money. A two bedroom is cheaper and I’m okay with a two bedroom, but it’s not much cheaper. I checked and I’m super scared.
You’re supposed to make three times your rent per month for a decent apartment. Combined, Kasper and I barely have twice the rent for the average two bedroom. I’m really freaking out. Utilities, food, clothes, school items, gas and maintenance for the car? My medicine, the car payment…omg credit cards I’m still paying off from my stroke! I can’t make more than I do and Kasper is not very, um, he’s a low wage worker with a little experience in everything. One mistake when he was 19 and a shoddy lawyer screwed up his adult life for the rest of his life. See? It happens to whites too…occasionally (what he did was really stupid though).
I’m so scared and through this one of my biggest concerns and worries is that I won’t provide a more than adequate childhood for my kids. People say it’s not priority but I would like my kids to have memories to overshadow the struggles I face as their parent. My childhood sucked in a lot of ways but my mom always made sure holidays and birthdays were something to remember. Kasper’s childhood sucked because his parents were already old when he was born so they had no excitement left in them. He says they didn’t even put up a tree. He stopped getting gifts when he was still a kid. He hears me talk about my Christmases, birthdays and trick or treating and he’s jealous! He’s jealous of my childhood surrounded by poverty, gangs, drugs, abuse and rape because I have these other memories that are so much better and he has none. He has nothing. His childhood is empty until he got a license and his mother could no longer shelter him in their clinical lifestyle of old age and boredom. I don’t want that for my kids.
I’d rather spend most of the year stressing over bills if it meant giving my kids a few good memories a year; ones they can hopefully carry into their adulthood and share or recreate with their own families. Kasper didn’t know how to decorate a Christmas tree until he met me. He thought you put the lights on after the baubles. He didn’t know what the point of a stocking is. He had no idea that people hide their colored eggs, not just eating them. He didn’t know that trick or treating meant walking more than one block. He didn’t see the point in firework shows until we took my nephews to a show one year and he saw how happy the show made them.
Money and gifts aren’t everything in this life but when you get to see the expression of joy on your kids’ faces as they tear into a present that’s just for them, or as they watch streaks of light burst into color in the night sky above them, you have a better understanding of the spirit of these traditions.
My fear is opening the mail and finding out our new rent cost will be more than I’m expecting but my greatest fear is finding out my kids will have a childhood of disappointment. I may not remember the presents my mom got me as a kid, I may not recall the details of meals I ate as a kid on Thanksgiving, but I do remember the feeling of love and joy in my chest on these days when the house was filled with the aroma of fresh, warm food. I remember the brightly colored, lit tree brightening it’s dark corner early on Christmas morning and I remember on each of these nights going to bed feeling like I had something special despite the misery I felt and saw most days. Because of this I have this need to ensure that my kids will have similar memories to look back on and cherish the same as I do and that’s why I freak out over silly house decorations, turkey (even if it’s last minute) and making sure our puny reusable plastic tree is buried in tinsel, baubles and lights.