Often I sit and think of days gone by and attempt to put today in context with the past. Often memories of where I am from and thing I have done bring the day into perfect clarity and strengthen my resolve to push a little harder, try one more time, and occasionally let things go. This day I sit and remember my favorite Christmas of all time. Now if I simply skip to the day itself one would look at it and wonder why it holds such fond memories. So to avoid this I must jump back in history a year and a half before to begin setting the stage for what was truly a magical and wonderful Christmas.
July 1993… I am an 18 year old high school drop out just recently got clean from the drug use of the last 4-5 years and I am trying to make ends meet with my fiancÚ. We are working bad jobs and I get a letter in the mail that reads “the state of Arizona is bringing you to court for child support….” WHAT???? I don’t have a kid, much less in Arizona!
Off to court to order a DNA test. Four weeks later “Congratulations you’re a father”. Wow, well if I am then I want rights to visit and get to know my daughter. The courts nicely say that I have no rights unless I pay. Heck yeah I will pay and I want to start right now!!! They were happy to take the money, not so happy to help me get to see my kid. Jerks!
October 1993… Letter in the mail- “The department of child services in Texas and we have custody of your child. If you fail to respond we are waiving all of your paternal rights”. That was a heck of a letter to get on a Friday night! So after staying awake for three days I called the department at 9am Monday morning. Ok so Texas is 2 hours behind and I have to wait 2 more hours... how tough it is to not know what is coming next.
Over the next two months I meet my child by telephone and exchange pictures and gifts for Christmas by mail. This is really bugging me. I need to know my child, I need to hold her, and I need to care for her the way I was not cared for in my own life. New Years Eve party at my apartment was…. Unusual… I tossed every one out of the house told the better half I am moving to Texas to get my child and she can come or stay but I am going. SHE IS GOING TOO!!! Man I can not believe how supportive she is of my decision. Move back to parent’s house to save money to go to Texas. No real plan, just get there and wing it. March find out fiancÚ is pregnant, I am over the top happy and worried and excited darn crazy year.
April 1994... Take train to Texas show up with $695 cash in my pocket and two bags with my belongings. That’s it. Foster family meets me at the train station with my kid for our first meeting. Any man who has had a child understands the overwhelming emotion I felt just then, and I cried like a baby. Darn she is a cutie. Spent the day with her and the foster family and got a ride to Paris, TX and found the hotel I paid one night for. The social worker meets me there and we got to know each other a little. Over the next 24 hours I landed a job as a 2nd cook at a pub in town and landed a rental house. I needed one more night in a hotel but I had the beginnings and some help from the social worker for rides and such to get the ball rolling. Oh yeah and the only piece of furniture a borrowed air mattress on the floor. Darn this was going to be hard.
Late May… fiancÚ joins my in Texas and I have started a new job delivering furniture, the work is hard and the heat is rough but the pay is better and I will have more time with my child and fiancÚ.
September… my second daughter is born!!!!!!! She is so beautiful and we are starting to make things work for us. It’s not the best life but it’s ours and we are trying really hard.
Late October early November... Darn lost my job bills are high and nothing is going right! I am turning 21 and can get my Commercial drivers license (CDL) may be and get some real money for the family. Yeah 6 weeks away from them but the pay off with get us out of the hole. Well that was the idea any way. So I go off to driving school. Living on two cans of fake sausages a day and if a room mate feels nice a can of corned beef hash every other day or three. This stinks! Hey good news you will get 3 days home for Christmas! Then off to Oklahoma City to get your truck and first loads. Yeah darn money!!
Call the social worker and she will pick me up at the bus stop 45 miles away from home and get me to the house Christmas Eve!! Yeah my first Christmas with my kids!!! All set graduation and road test are done I got the CDL and I am ready to rock. Get the grey hound to the bus stop and - …. What the heck no worker?!!? A call from the pay phone gets me a oh yeah I forgot and I left town so your on your own happy holidays. (*&&%#@#%&$*(#^%&(%()()*%()*^2*()&%*() man I was MAD!!
A friend once said to me if you are ever in a bind flag down a cop and ask for help they can either help you or get to some one who can. So I really had nothing to lose. Stopping a cop looks kind of funny but if you are loud enough and make a big deal of it they will stop. This one did and after I explained what my deal was and how I was trying to get home he took me to the station. Darn I thought I was getting help not arrested! Turns out he just wanted to get me a sandwich and a hot chocolate while he made arraignments. He took me to the town line and said that the Texas police force was willing to help me out. I looked and there was another cruiser waiting for me at the line! And so it went from one cruiser to another from town line to town line all the way back to Paris. When I got there the cops knew me and asked if I was trying to make Christmas, of course I was!! Ok then sit back he said and on came the lights and siren, down went the peddle and 90 MPH all the way to the front door! I got out and the fiancÚ opened the door thinking I was in trouble. She cried when I told her what happened and then we walked into the house at 11:55pm Christmas Eve.
We had a two foot tall tree on a cardboard box in the corner. Two sets of lights that we got at a dollar store, dinner made from mostly canned foods and gifts that either we got at the dollar store or stole because we had no money. The worker had sent a few things for the girls and they loved it all. The house was cool and the ground was green but man we had the best Christmas ever……
Now I am a bit older and I think things through a bit more but some times I just like to sit and remember the hardest, worst, best darn Christmas I ever had…. May we never forget where we come from and those challenges that we over came. And may those who are in them now see the future as full of possibilities and that one day the struggle will be worth the return.
With love and wisdom,