Ten and a half years ago, I was too young to have kids. Naturally, that means I got pregnant with twins. My husband also had a child in high school, who I started raising when he was four. We had just moved into our first apartment, with a kindergartner, a dog, and two girls on the way. I worked at a job I hated, and Jason was new at UPS. Everything went okay for a while, but we knew we had to move before the twins were born. So, we got a house we couldn’t afford in the first place, and then my doctor said to me at twelve weeks pregnant, “You’re going on bedrest or the hospital for the remainder of your pregnancy. You choose.”
Fast forward two years later, we live in a bigger house, we have two more dogs, the twins are toddlers … and we had a fourth child. We’re way in over our head. My oldest has behavior problems, I have three kids in diapers, and my husband is still part time. I had a decision to make: go back to work and let other people handle my problem child and 500 diaper changes a day, or stay home.
I stayed home.
Somehow, we scraped by. And by scraping by, I mean we spent entire winters without heat. There were times when my husband and I literally did not eat so the kids could. Other times we had pancakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner because that’s all there was. The electricity was shut off, the phones didn’t work, and we never had cable. My car was repossessed, and Jason’s truck was stolen. We relied on a two seater pickup my husband drove in high school for years until my cousin gave us a car.
Those are the times when you truly discover what kind of person you are. We never asked for handouts. We were never offered much.
Although, I do remember the day after Halloween, 2009. My aunt, who has since passed, found out we didn’t have heat or hot water. She handed me a check and said, “Take care of your family.”
I wouldn’t feel right without mentioning that, because we were blessed with the occasional miracle.
But most of the time, it was my husband and I against the world.
Things went this way for a few years, and only became more trying when I decided to attend beauty school. Following my dream meant more gas money, supply money, and 40 hours a week away from home. All of my kids were in school, but I needed help with them I hadn’t needed since they were newborns, and my mom had moved away.
It took me 18 months instead of 13, but I did it. And a year after I finished beauty school, I took my sister-in-law to State Board and passed the test.
Twelve years since the day my husband and I met, we are finally in a place where we can breathe a little. He’s a fulltime driver at UPS, and I’m a stylist at a top salon in my city. My oldest is almost done with high school, and my three younger ones are growing before my eyes.
Somewhere in-between the chaos of our struggle, I discovered my ability to write. It’s a dream I’m still working toward, but it’s because of where I come from—the lowdown, dirty fight of life—I won’t give up.
But tonight, while my kids we’re decorating the tree, I looked around and couldn’t believe how far we’ve come. My house is warm, the lights are on, we have a fridge full of food, and the pups are fat and happy. It’s also a wonderful feeling to know that we did it ourselves. Jason and I busted our asses to get where we are today, and it was a genuine effort.
I’m taken back to a conversation I had with Jason earlier this month about our Christmas tree. I hate it! It’s 9ft of torture and itch. Every branch needs to be assembled, and it’s not prelit! I wanted a real tree, and smaller, because this one doesn’t fit anywhere.
I tried to make it better by purchasing some new lights and bulbs, and not putting on the old ass tinsel we have. When I was taking this picture, I was drawn back to the year it was given to us. Our tree monster has literally seen 30 Christmases. My in-laws gave it to us after they got a new one. We wouldn’t have had a tree that year if they hadn’t.
This is the same Christmas tree my husband had as a child, and we made the most of it during our struggle days. It leans a little to the left, and smells like dust, but today it reminded me of how far we’ve come. It’s good to be humbled every now and then. I am so incredibly thankful for everything I have, and proud.
I guess I’ll keep the 9ft, monster, dust, leaning, old, branch pull-a-part tree a little longer.
Fucker put me in my place.