Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bah, humbug to bah, humbug

A year ago, some five weeks into my unemployment, I wasn’t sure if we could keep up with our mortgage and food bills. My wife still had her job, which provided our health-care coverage, but she worked for a newspaper. ‘Nuff said.

I’m not nearly as uptight now, though I still don’t have a job, and the possibility of landing a full-time editing or writing gig appears even slimmer (my wife, though employed for a major daily, works neither in editorial nor ad sales). Still, the world didn’t collapse into chaos, and premonitions of a Great Depression, as recalled by my folks in the same tone used by a noire movie character to recount a crime wave, no longer looms as a possibility.

Indeed, my confidence had rebounded sufficiently by this year’s holidays to no longer deny their existence. I wasn’t exactly belting out the ho-ho-ho’s, but the Grinch no longer had a kindred spirit. No tree, no holiday dinner, no lavish gift-giving, no cards or their e-mail equivalents. But at least I’d stoke a flicker of cheer by buying presents again for a few youngsters who’d been skipped along with everyone else last year.

It didn’t prove the Duraflame log I’d hoped. Then today, poking around the internet, I came across a column that, strangely, was published after Christmas by the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gazette. Maybe columnist Jeff Barr realized I’m not the only one in need of a holiday Hail Mary pass. In any case, I thank him for giving me the sort of feeling you got from watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the first time. Except his account is real.

You can read it for yourself here. But let me give you at least a flavor of it with this excerpt.

The column recounts how a woman, Michelle, was walking along a highway when a van, which I presume was driven by Barr, stopped to offer her a ride. She was laden with stuffed shopping bags.
“I work at Burger King and I got my check today,” she said. “It’s not much, but we’ll have presents under the tree.”

The drive led to a mobile home where Michelle is raising her family. The single mother proudly spoke of snatching up the trailer for $100 three years ago, and gutting the place “right down to the floorboards.” A slow renovation process that took every extra penny has resulted in a comfortable home for her children.

She told of getting the knee brace from a friend as payment for baby-sitting. She spoke of picking up free storm windows from an acquaintance who “had the same, exact trailer as we did. How lucky is that?”

Not a single tinge of bitterness; just a working mother relating stories of her home and her family
Remember, this is in Michigan, the Great Recession's third circle of Hell.

I think I may have another conversation with my pal, Jack Daniels, and put on the Phil Spector Christmas album.

1 comment:

  1. Good writing, Peter. I hope 2010 brings you most everything you want.