Sunday, July 13, 2008

From Lackin' to Livin': My Nickel and Dimed Challenge

Since I'd feel guilty making a whole 'nother blog for just one story, I'll be making a whole 'nother blog for a bunch of short stories not "whole-new-blog" worthy. This time it's the Nickel and Dimed Challenge. Let's begin!

My name is Mina Lackin, and this is the story of my life.

It was just me and the kids then. I'm not sure how we came to this. Jerry just...disappeared. He didn't come home one night, and that was it. He never got to meet his daughter; she was born a few months later. I managed to survive two years on our savings, but when that ran out, I was forced to move. So in the space of two years, I went from being a happy stay-at-home mom to somehow having to work and raise two children alone. I had no idea how I was going to do it.

Our house. It wasn't much, but it was what I was given in this town's Back to Work program. Besides, it held the three of us just fine.

That's me, holding my daughter. I would have smiled, but I had just got there, and the house wasn't what I had expected at all.
Here's a better shot of my darling, Bryna. Good thing she grew into her father's nose.
I finally managed to pin down my pride and joy, Tiergan, for a picture. He was not happy that he'd had to move away from all his friends, but it couldn't be helped.

He's a good boy though, and he kept himself entertained well,
while I applied for a job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant,
and greeted a few neighbors who came by to welcome me.

It hit me like a ton of bricks when Bryna starting whining to get my attention; she was already two years old and didn't know how to talk! I started to fix that problem immediately.
And while I was at it, I figured I might as well start teaching her how to use the big girl toilet.
Then I fixed dinner for our guests...
...or more accurately, burned dinner. But they were very gracious.
Tiergan seemed especially fond of Ben. He needed a male figure in his life, something else that, because of the circumstances, I couldn't provide.

But two good things did come from living with just me and Bryna. Tiergan knows to put the toilet seat back down, and he's very helpful around the house.
I did manage to teach Bryna to talk rather quickly.
In later months, I wondered if it was such a good idea to teach her so quickly. She certainly used her new ability to loudly demand what she wanted.

I had so wanted to make Tiergan's first day of school special. But that was the worst day of my life--literally. I didn't even realize when he left.
It started when I burned our breakfast. I'm usually a decent cook, at least good enough to cook food right, but I'd been burning everything I put in the oven for a while. Maybe the oven was defective.
Then Bryna woke up screaming, and she smelled. So I had to drop breakfast and give her a bath. After that, I went looking for Tiergan, but it was already after 10 and he'd caught the bus on his own. So I did what I could, played with Bryna some and got ready for work.

One of the benefits of the Back to Work program is that you're instantly set up with a childcare service that can watch your kids while you work. I'm a bit worried. The nanny tended to arrive at the absolute last second. I couldn't be late; my boss would chew me out.
But Karen was a good nanny for toddlers. Bryna was always well-fed, clean and either sleeping or well-rested by the time I got back.
Tiergan, however, complained that she hogged the bathroom and didn't cook him dinner, and that's why he spent all afternoon on the phone with Ben. I didn't know who to believe. Little did I know, though, that that would be the least of my problems.

When Lefromage begged me to cook, I was too afraid to take the chance. If I couldn't even cook a Pop-Tart, I wasn't going to make the whole restaurant go up in smoke.
It was rather ironic that my fear of shutting down the restaurant due to fire led the restaurant to shut down due to lack of customers.
I felt awful. I not only lost my job, but caused other people to lose theirs as well. At that point, I fell into a deep depression.

I needed a bath, food, someone to talk to, and a long rest. Tiergan was saddened when I didn't even let him hug me, snapping at him to do his homework as I headed to the bathroom.
Tiergan took everything in stride, playing with his sister instead. Sometimes I think my son is really an angel.
I was a mess. I kept having nightmares of the social worker taking my kids away, so I couldn't sleep,
but I was so tired that I couldn't eat well either.
Even bathing now sapped all my strength. At least I passed out on the dry side of the tub.

After losing a night on the floor of the bathroom, I woke up in a way, and started spending more time with Bryna. After all, you only get one chance to raise your children.
I was so proud when I found she learned to use the big potty.
Unfortunately, Tiergan was still being neglected. I would cook dinner for him, but I always slept the afternoon away.

Finally I got to the point where I could get up in the morning, get dressed, and look for a job again. I quickly found one as a golf caddy. It was only five hours in the morning. It was perfect.

Maybe it was finally coming home with some money to pay the bills, or maybe it was the possibility of filling the refrigerator before we ran out of food, but I was happy enough after sleeping the rest of the morning away to play a game with Tiergan when he came home. Just seeing his eyes light up when he saw me standing at the door to greet him was enough to bring me to tears. While we played, I explained why I had been acting the way I had, and asked him to forgive me, and he did.
Who needs a man? My son is my best friend.
Bryna's 6th birthday passed quietly, so much so that we almost missed it. She's an adorable girl, although I was worried that her nose seemed to be growing with her. That marked the passage of four years here.

I sat the two of them down and over dinner, I gave them the "school talk" I had meant to give Tiergan when we first moved. They both listened, and I think they understood.
I like to think of myself as a woman of my word. Now that Bryna didn't require constant attention, I had the time and energy to help Tiergan. I didn't realize how hard school had been for him until I watched him trying to do his homework. I couldn't help him with the math, but I was the geography bee champion every year in school.
You know, there's nothing quite like seeing a child "get it." I think I should have been a teacher, but they don't even advertise. When I asked around, I was told something about the seasons. I don't get it, even now.
Things, I guess, were going too well, so the sink broke.
But I have the best neighbors in the world. Ben fixed the sink for me.
He even played some with Tiergan while I put Bryna to bed. I really wonder why he isn't married to some nice woman by now.

Tiergan and Bryna have always been very close and are still so now, probably because for a year or two, each was all the other had.
The nanny said that my bank account had insufficient funds so she took my couch. In my contract it says apparently that if I can't "pay for a service, then the person performing the service has the right to repossess any property that will cover the cost of the service." I can't believe she took my couch.
But nothing could dampen my mood. I got a promotion! I wouldn't be replacing the couch immediately, but I could fill the fridge.

The next thing I remember, someone was running away from the house, and I was getting up from the pavement. Had he assaulted me? I never had the chance to ask; I never saw him again. I guess not all my neighbors are the best in the world.

I've been making a point to ask the kids everyday if they need help with their homework. They usually do.
One night, though, Bryna came up to me, said thank you, and added, "I'm gonna make good grades now, for you." Isn't she the sweetest?

As usual, when things are going well, I have to be reminded of my place in the world by having things go wrong. It started when I couldn't afford to pay for groceries, bills, and the nanny at the same time. So I decided to stiff the nanny, again. This time she took my bookcase.
Bryna saw her putting all the books in a black trash bag. She and Tiergan were so sad.

Then there was the fire. I don't even remember what was cooking. It was charred beyond recognition by the time I put the fire out anyway.
Thankfully, the kids were outside with Ben, totally oblivious to what was happening.

Then I had to quit my job, because I guess the nanny was tired of taking my stuff and just refused to come.

Then there was the burglar. Would you believe my house got robbed? I didn't think we had anything of value!
When I heard him, I sneaked over to the phone to call the police.
They told me not to try to fight him myself. At least he was too busy taking my dining chairs to notice me.
I'd kill him if he tried to touch my children though, so that's where I stayed until the police came.
Finally the policeman came just about the time he was getting ready to fold up my table.
They fought, but the burglar beat up the cop before grabbing the chairs and running off.
I had to explain to the kids in the morning why we didn't have dining chairs anymore. Tiergan was furious.
Bryna was very angry too.

At the end of my rope, I pleaded with whoever or whatever was up there, if they were there and could hear me, to please help me.
And that's when things started to look up. Right after, my friend Marisa called to say she'd talked to one of her friends and got me in the door at a toy distribution company.
Also, due to a lucky chance, I came across the perfect opportunity to present myself to the higher-ups.
It went well, and I got a promotion. I could finally replace all my stolen furniture.
You can't beat that with a stick.

Then my children gave me the best surprise of all: they came home with A+'s!

I made sure to cheer as loud as I could for both of them, so the whole neighborhood could know that I had smart kids.

And I finally met one of Bryna's friends. Her name was Marsha.

Tiergan thought I had forgotten, but I hadn't; today was his 14th birthday, and I wanted to make it special. I fixed his favorite, spaghetti,

and sang "Happy Birthday" to Tiergan as he officially became a teenager.

Of course, that didn't change his relationship with Bryna at all.

I went window shopping and found another potential business opportunity.
I was rewarded again, but not with money this time.

One day, Tiergan was staring at the newspaper with an expression that was too thoughtful for any boy his age. When I asked him what he was thinking about, he told me that he thought he knew what he wanted out of life. When I took the obvious opening and asked him about his life aspiration, his answer was simple: "To be rich."
In fact, he wanted to head a big corporation like the one I worked at--wait, let me correct myself--we worked at. He had just applied to start working as a Mailroom Technician at the same company I was in.

Tiergan is such a hard worker that he quickly got a promotion. And all this was in addition to school!

All too soon, my baby girl became a teenager right before my eyes.

She's grown into a beautiful teenager, and the rest of her face is catching up with her nose.

Almost as soon as she could catch her breath, she grabbed a newspaper and started circling any jobs she felt she could do. Had they realized how dire our situation was in the past?
I wouldn't have chosen the Athletic career for her, but she enjoyed it and did well.

I got pictures of both of them in their uniforms.
Doesn't he look so professional?
And doesn't she look so... so, llama-like? That llama head kinds scares me.

Then the moment I'd been hoping for and dreading at the same time came upon me; Tiergan was preparing to leave for college. He'd calculated what he'd need to go, and worked hard to get scholarships to cover him.

I asked quietly, "So you're leaving me?"
He answered, "I'm going to get things ready for you." I didn't understand, but I played along.
"Well, if you're going to get something ready, I sure don't want to hold you up." At that point, I couldn't say anymore. I could only lift my hand and wave as he left this house forever.
Bryna almost missed him because she was in the bathroom. But she ran to the door in time to call out a goodbye to her big brother before he left for college. All I could think about was that in four years, that would be Bryna and I would be alone. For the first time in a long time, I started to think about the promise I made myself that I would be married by the time I became an old woman. Then I shook it out of my head. I still had a girl to raise.

Four years passed quickly.
I called Tiergan a lot, to hear about dorm life and the like. He told me that he was taking extra courses during breaks, and told me he had met "the one." Though, he said that in high school when he met Nicole. We'll see how he and Crystal pan out.
Bryna started dating some boy named Orlando. I gave her "The Talk" immediately, but she just laughed me off, saying she was not going to ruin her chances for a better life by getting pregnant. I hope she sticks by her word.
She told me that what she wants most out of life is a family as wonderful as the one she grew up in. I think she's thinking a bit too far ahead though when she gets all glassy-eyed talking about grandchildren. She doesn't even have children yet, and hopefully won't have any till she graduates.

I'd had great success at work as well.

And one warm morning, I heard Bryna calling a taxi. Suitcases were piled in front of her door.
She looked so happy, and I felt so sad.
"Don't cry mom, it's not like you'll never see us again."
"I'm just so proud of you and your brother."
"Well, I hear the horn beeping outside. I have to go. Bye Mom."
"Goodbye Bryna." My voice broke, and I could say no more.
As her taxi pulled away, I felt a sudden sense of finality. A chapter of my life was ending, but another was beginning. My days of being nickel and dimed were over.

I hope you all enjoyed my take on the Nickel and Dimed Challenge. Thank you for reading and commenting in advance. ;)
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