Posts Tagged ‘bad times’

Christmas, 1993

Note: This is a particularly difficult Christmas story to tell.   I wrote it some years ago but I have only shared it with a very few people.  It was written as an assignment for a writing workshop.  I haven’t looked at it in a while, in fact I thought I had lost this file until just a few minutes ago.  I hope you enjoy it.

The kids chattered excitedly as we made the hour drive to Disneyland.  As I drove, I thought about our last trip there, the previous year.  It had been a week after their father had packed his bags and moved out, with no warning or explanation.  I had taken the kids to the Magic Kingdom and we had stayed in the Grand Hotel for Thanksgiving weekend.  That had been a miserable trip for me.  This time it would be different.  We were broke because their father was fighting me on how much support he would pay.  Till we went to court, he didn’t have to pay me.  The month had been pretty rough.  It was Christmas.  I had bought a few small things for the girls over the previous months, but I didn’t have a single thing for Tony.  I would not have any money for gifts.  My kids were used to having extravagant Christmases with the presents several feet deep around the tree.  This year there was next to nothing.  I felt so inadequate. I couldn’t face my kids.  I had failed in my marriage and failed to keep their father at home.  When their father walked out on us, I had promised to keep things normal for them – and I wasn’t. I couldn’t give them everything they needed and wanted.

The week before Christmas I looked through all my hiding places as I often hid money or travelers checks.  I searched hoping to come across a long lost bounty.  Instead, I found two unused children’s tickets for Disneyland.  We had gotten them when we had stayed at the Grand Hotel that somber Thanksgiving weekend.  The coupons were valid until December 22nd.  The kids and I decided that we would make this our special Christmas gift for all of us.  We had enough money to buy my ticket to the park and Susie was still free.  Tony and Tina would use the free tickets to get in.  Perfect.  We had waited till the last day the tickets were valid, so it would be as close to Christmas as possible.   I felt like I was the best mom in the world to be taking my children on this magical trip as their gift.  They had told their friends that they were going to go to Disneyland for the holiday.  They had bragged and their friends had said how lucky they were to have a mom that would take them there for this special gift.  I was so proud.  I beamed.

We got to the parking lot and their excitement bubbled over.  They talked animatedly about which ride they were going to go on first and who would ride with Susie when she wanted to go on the baby rides.  We got the stroller out and all of our stuff and headed for the ticket booth.  We had to go there and exchange the free admission coupons for the real tickets and buy my ticket.  As we waited in line, I got the money ready.  I had gone to the bank and gotten out the last $100 we had, leaving just a few dollars so the account would stay open.  I had paid for the parking and now I would pay the $49.00 for my ticket, leaving just enough for a meal inside the park for all of us.

When I got to the ticket window, I told the woman that I needed to exchange the two coupons and buy one for me.  She asked if there was another adult.  I said no.  Just me and the kids, and I explained that Susie was three so she didn’t need to pay.  She looked at me and said I couldn’t use the two free tickets.  I could only use one.  She turned the tickets over to the back and pointed, saying that they were for one free child with a paying adult.  So I would have to buy my ticket and another one for one of the kids.  It would cost me $90 for the two tickets.  I had already spent six dollars for parking.  If I paid the $90, I would have less than five dollars left.  That wasn’t enough for the kids to eat or even buy a soda in the park.  I had no money in the checking account.  Their father had closed my credit card accounts when he left so I had none.  I couldn’t do it.

There was no way I could pay for the two tickets.  I stood there, looking at the woman and I asked her again why I couldn’t use both tickets.  My mind had gone blank.  Somehow I was not understanding how it was not possible to take my children in to the “happiest place on Earth.”   I was trembling. I could not speak. My ears were ringing.   I felt like such a fool.  I told the woman I could not pay the money.  I wouldn’t be buying any tickets at all.  She handed me back the coupons and I just walked away saying I couldn’t use them.  I told the kids we weren’t going in.  We were going home.  “Why?” they asked.  I quietly said that the tickets weren’t good and I didn’t have enough money for us to get in.

We walked across the parking lot. Everyone was getting there. We were the only ones leaving.  As we crossed the endless parking lot, I could not look at my kids.  Silently, I cried.  I was afraid to look at them.  I couldn’t face their tears.  I knew I would see my shame in their eyes.  I was afraid they would see the rage I felt toward their father.  I had failed again.  No one said a word on the way to the car.  I could hear sniffling.  When we got to the car, Susie asked why we weren’t going to go inside Disneyland.  I couldn’t answer her.  I couldn’t explain it to her.  Tony whispered to her that mommy didn’t have enough money.  I wanted to die when I heard him whisper to her, “Shh.  Susie, don’t cry.  It’s okay.  I’ll play with you when we get home.” My ten year old was being a better father to his sister than I was being a mother.  I felt the shame even more.

We drove home in silence.  No one said a word, except Susie who kept asking when we would go to Disneyland.  Would we come back tomorrow when mommy felt better?  I wiped the tears from my eyes but before long I couldn’t drive any more.  As much as I tried, I wasn’t able to hold back my tears and the road blurred.  We stopped at the Citadel Outlets so I could calm down.  The kids were hungry.  They said they weren’t, but I could hear their stomachs growling.  I saw the look in their eyes. They wanted to spare me having to spend any money.  Then I remembered that they had been wanting to eat at Johnny Rocket’s so we walked to the food court and went in to the burger place.  It was lunch time and there were no booths, so we sat at the counter and I ordered hamburgers, fries, and shakes for each of the kids.  I couldn’t even think of eating.  I gave them nickels for the jukebox.  I tried to take joy in their enjoyment of the food and upbeat atmosphere.  I tried to smile.  I tried to laugh at their silliness.  I tried to be me.  Then, right in the middle of it all, Tony looked at me with a big smile on his face and tears in his eyes and said, “Mommy, this is better than Disneyland!”  He hugged me as I cried again.  Not because of my failure and inadequacies as a parent, but I cried because I had three wonderful children and although I was a failure in my eyes, I began to see that I might not be one in theirs.

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