It has been weeks since I’ve wanted to write. I could blame it on the holidays and this crazy time of year, but that would be a lie. The truth is…the hard to admit truth is that I’ve been hiding in my shame. One week before Christmas, I was hurrying home from work excited about the news that my youngest son was accepted into college with a partial scholarship.
As I went to open the front door, there were papers rolled up and shoved inside the door handle. I froze for a minute because I knew what was coming. It had been coming for a while, but I wasn’t expecting it right before Christmas. As I unrolled the papers my hands began to tremble and my throat began to swell as if I couldn’t breathe. All I saw was the highlighted words that read vacate by Friday, December 21st.
I heard hurried footsteps coming down the stairs as I looked over at the table where the shiny college brochure lay on the table with the acceptance letter. I didn’t want to ruin this moment for him, but he could tell by my eyes that I wasn’t there in that moment with him. I quickly tried to fake it and gave my son (who is now much taller than I am) a big hug around his waist. As I congratulated him, my tears released. Yes, I was proud of him getting his first acceptance letter but I was numb—finding it difficult to hold it together. He quickly downplayed it and said it’s not his first choice…that it’s not a big deal. He knew I was upset about something. I was a million miles away desperately trying to figure out where we were going to move and how I was going to afford a place to live on my shitty little salary. I tried to shake it off and act excited, but he knew something had happened and he knew enough not to ask. He didn’t want to know what I had to say and I didn’t have the words to say it.
I walked upstairs and collapsed on the bed. Reading and re-reading this legal document that I didn’t necessarily understand. Did I really have to pack up the house we’ve lived in for 18 years and leave in 3 days? How did this happen? How did I get here? The shame washed over me like a crashing wave. My thoughts pounding into me like one blow after another. My thoughts that called me a loser, a terrible mother, an idiot, a deadbeat…every name in the book. I was finally losing the home I had raised my kids in and I had nowhere to go. After I mentally pulverized every ounce of my self-worth in my mind, I called my sister. She would help me through this…she is my touchstone. The one person that always has my back and pushes me in the right direction. She gave me action items and I needed that. It was after 6 pm and nothing was open. I couldn’t call the bank or the lawyer or the short list of organizations that help single-mothers in these situations. All I could do is sit there in shock and wait and wait and wait. The anxiety rose inside me choking me. I was under the wave and I couldn’t find my way to the surface. My head was spinning with questions. Where am I going to find a place to live that I can afford? What about the dog? How am I going to get rid of 18 years of shit? How can I be kicked out of my home a few days before Christmas? When is this nightmare going to end?
I picked up the phone and called my ex-husband. Somehow, he was still the person I needed when times get tough. He was the first phone call when I lost my job four years ago, only this time he is re-married with a new baby. I had no right to lean on him other than the fact that he left me to pick up the pieces of this crumbling house we once called our home. I immediately regretting calling him. He was at the doctor with the baby crying in the background. Dammit…why the hell did I call him? Later, I was glad I did. He helped a little. At least he offered to take the dog if I couldn’t find a place that allowed dogs. He said he’d help get his friends’ moving truck and get rid of all the junk accumulated in the basement. The next morning I went to the courthouse and talked to a lawyer that offered free advice for foreclosures. The line grew as I waited and I realized that I’m not alone. Maybe I’m not the only loser that lost their home.
The next few days were not filled with your typical holiday cheer filling stockings by the fireplace singing Christmas carols. They were a checklist of scheduled tours of crappy little two-bedroom apartments that were still over my budget. It was happening whether I liked it or not. Turns out the marshal was not going to come knocking on my door to evict me and my kids on Christmas…they aren’t that cold-hearted. Ebenezer was kind enough to give me a few weeks to vacate the premises. I didn’t have time to wallow in self-pity or continue to beat myself up—I had to get back up again and fight another round. I don’t have the leisure of waiting around like a damsel in distress waiting for my prince charming to come in on his white horse and take me to his beautiful castle in the French countryside. I have to pick myself up by my bootstraps and pray that I can find a nice little place for me, my boys…and the dog.
I know once I get through this next hurdle things will be so much better. I will finally be rid of the house that has been a constant burden for years. It will be a fresh start and I can sever the last cord that kept me tethered to resentment. The final tie that will set me free. This will be another chapter in my story of healing. One day very soon, I will look back on this painful time and smile. I will be in a beautiful new home sipping a cup of coffee looking at the box of my first published book fresh from the printers thinking about how I made it through another chapter of my story that led me to my happy ending.