Sunday, February 15, 2009
We live on a cul-de-sac in suburban San Diego, amidst baseball and soccer fields, Target shopping centers and California Pizza Kitchens, (where Mr. C and I went for our cocktails, chips and dip last night). The more specific area where we live, the town in the town, is a strange blend of the poor (one bedroom crap-shacks on streets with multiple sex offenders) to the very rich (we see Tony Gwynn often, just last week at the gas station) to the homeless immigrants who work day and night, rain or shine, standing on the carefully upkept corners with their baseball hats and broad smiles.
Somewhere in there are the middle class, and then there is Us- the packaged middle-class. We look middle-class but we are not. We are poor. Not exaggerating, or using the word lightly- yes, we are poor. We struggle to pay our bills and have notices put on our door a few times a year DISCONNECTION IMMINENT We are going to have to declare medical bankrupcy from my prior surgeries due to Endometriosis, and that was with Blue Cross, piece of shit insurance. We owe the IRS due to the business that Mr. Curry slaved over and eventually lost due to astronomical increases in Workers Compinsation insurance. Our cars are cramped, old, falling apart and mine barely works: the power steering is out, so I drive every day wrestling the wheel like a mud wrestling ho, in addition to the chronic overheating and the defunct air conditioner/heater. Mr. C drives Blue Thunder, the loveable old Ford clunker that he recently started using a combination of sheer muscle and a wrench. When our children have to pay library fees we sweat the 15$. My bras are falling apart, too baggy and old and the underwire poking out- but I bought Lola new clothes recently, as she had grown out of most of her pants and shirts. Mr. C's shoes have entire layers peeling off the bottom and we chose to go to California Pizza Kitchen for Valentines Day instead of buying him new shoes. We both work full time. We work hard. We barely keep above water.
Stimulate This Package
A large life preserver in our household has been the addition to our household of the mysterious, the unknown, the oft dreaded: Roomates. Female, all (we have children), we have had roomates for a few years now, and here is the ultimate Red Flag toward our seriously troubled financial position: I share a room with Lola, while Mr. Curry sleeps in the boys room. We don't have a marital bed, much less privacy. It's a shocking downgrade in adulthood and parenthood to have to part ways with your honey and snuggle into a twin sized bed with a long limbed and snoring seven year old.
During the halycon days after Lola's birth, when Mr. Curry's business was affording us a comfortable lifestyle, we had a four bedroom home and large backyard, newish minivan, and Mr. C had a large, brand new white truck, which he mourns to this day. It was repossessed. He lost his business, we moved, the men in their white coats and sweetly apologetic faces came at 6am, waking me and the children, to drag the white truck away. My minivan was lost in That Year, the year where I crashed the minivan after we had lost our insurance, so in addition to the accident and loss of car, I owe the state money, which they are taking from my paycheck.
Moving from that, to this, was hard. Having roomates in our two master bedrooms? Harder.
But not too hard. Not as hard as the many stories and voices that swim through my mind daily, the 8 year old African orphan who is singlehandedly raising her brothers and sisters. That's not a sad tale some writer concocted. That's her Reality. That is her Life. Only the unfathomable lottery of chance decided that I would be born here, in the U.S., with our enormous privelege and responsibillities to our freedoms, and born into a place where I may be poor, and downtrodden, but also within reach of a new life, a better life. Although I was abused as a child, when I was ready to heal, help was available. Because I spent so many years in the dark isolation and suffering of my childhood unit, I know what hopelessness is. Because they thought, before my first surgery, that I might have ovarian cancer, and because I know a woman now who has a 2 year old daughter and 1 year old son who just started walking, and because she has invasive, metastisized breast cancer and will probably die in a few years: because life is endless in it's array of possibilities, I can look at where my circumstance falls and see that I am not on the far side of the dark. My childhood taught me true despair. I will never forget.
The battle is every day, to hold up my marriage, my life and values. Mr. Curry and I have to be very persistently careful to connect, because with him in one room and I in another, without the place carved out for ourselves, we can drift apart so easily. At night, in front of a movie, one of our roomates could walk from her room to get some milk, and in that simple act, bring us from intimacy to a quiet acceptance. Mr. Curry reminded me, as I was in tears the other night, with his arms around me, that we can make it through this and more, that we love each other more than enough, that we have to be patient. I nodded on his shoulder, yes, yes, I know you are right.
Our roomates currently are sweet people. A single mom and her son, named Dakota as well, live with us- our third African American roomates, which is good too, because the area where we live is largely Asian, Hispanic and White. I'm glad for our kids to meet people in this way, up close and personal, and recognize our common humanity, to form bonds, to learn patience and acceptance. One of our roomates is now a best friend of mine, we had so much in common- eating organic, Attachment Parenting, kooky, writers, creative and damaged, moving towards health of all kinds.
The money provided by their rents will allow us to file for medical bankrupcy for my past medical bills (again, curses to Blue Cross) and allows us to do smaller, regular things with the kids, like the Zoo, trips to the thrift stores, new clothes. The money will allow us to save for a better car, one that won't make up it's own mind if it feels like starting on a cold morning.
The experience, though, is ours to use, a currency we have to handle carefully. We keep a close eye on our marriage, our children, our stress levels. It's hard to manage such a busy, busy, oh so fucking BUSY household!
Five Kids (sometimes four, If Ian is with his mom)
Four rooms (one on the other side of the house, affords privacy)
So the economic downturn? We were there already, America. In the trenches, owing the money, sucking it up, the tears, the anger, the frustration, the hard work. Keeping roomates is how we keep our head above water.
I've got some great stories out of it, at least.