We were running out of more than money. We were running out of time. It was just a few days before Christmas. If there would be a Christmas at all.. it would be now or never. So….we spent the day Christmas shopping.  To be honest- we spent our rent. Yup. On Christmas gifts. We also hit the lottery of “instant credit approval” at a department store.  Which, we immediately ran up to it’s limit on a special gift for ourselves….Merry Christmas to us! At least for the moment…

We were young. (very young) Every month when we made out our bills we robbed Peter to pay Paul… every month, some bill had to wait. To say we were struggling financially is an epic understatement. It’s like calling the sinking of the Titanic a fender-bender. I think spending our rent made us feel momentarily rich. Well…if not rich… we at least felt: not poor. The fear and guilt were barely covered by the excitement of giving. We were emotionally short-sheeting ourselves. It didn’t cover.

We figured we’d pay our rent in January. We thought for sure we could  catch up, eventually …We’d figure out how to pay for groceries, later. Maybe we could float a check for long enough to cover. There were only three of us… it wouldn’t take much. And it was Christmas, after-all. Each bag of gifts we stuffed into the trunk of our tiny old Toyota- held a mix of guilt, fear and excitement.

The truth is-we just didn’t know how to say “No.” We should have said: “No, we can’t buy gifts for everyone we’re related to.” No, we can’t donate to this cause and that….” Instead.. we played Santa. A game we would lose.

Only the real Santa has an unlimited budget. Only the real Santa can make Christmas dreams come true…but- we were having an identity crisis. Maybe it was that first grey hair, I’d noticed…. or the extra baby-weight I was carrying… whatever the reason- we sure THOUGHT we were Santa.

On the way home, the truth settled in like a blizzard of smothering snow….We were not Santa. We’d eventually have to pay for everything.

We arrived home, still full of guilt and fear and excitement. We carried our little one and all the Christmas gifts into our duplex. The gifts weren’t extravagant… we’re not talking Tiffany’s here.. just more than we could actually afford. The thought of returning them flew in and out of our heads like a hummingbird… one that migrated to a warmer place -instantly.

After the baby went to bed.. we wrapped everything, and prayed it would all work out.. eventually.

Instead of seeing that pile of gifts and feeling excitement and joy.. we felt mostly: nauseous.  Which is probably good, because the cupboards were pretty bare, and there wasn’t much to eat. It would be days before our next check. I hoped we’d get a bunch of holiday leftovers to help tide us over….which is when I realized I wasn’t sure I had enough money left to buy the ingredients for the “dish to pass” that we had to bring for the holiday meal.

I checked under the couch cushions for coin- Mostly, I found cheerios.

I turned down the heat. (A way too late effort to save a few bucks.) and turned off most of the lights so the extra from the tree wouldn’t cause our power to be shut off in January…It had happened before- and January is NOT a good time to have your power “limited.” Not in Michigan, anyway.

Sitting on the couch, we’d have prayed- if we didn’t feel so guity for making the mess we were in. We’d made our bed.. we’d lie in it.

Which is when there was a sudden and loud banging on our front door. (more…)