In late 2000 my world began to unravel. Before that, I was a homeschool mom, involved in my church, and my husband had a job in aerospace. That year, the day before Thanksgiving, he was laid off. Then on Monday morning he was called back. Then for a couple of months the rumor mill ground us down. A big meeting was held to tell people that if they were sill there, they were safe for at least a year. That year ended up be about a month.
We had never had a lot, sacrificing to allow me to stay home with the kids. Now we were trying to make it on unemployment while my husband retrained as part of his layoff settlement. Eventually he was able to work in a DSL call center, making about half of what he had previously been paid.
My daughter was in, 7th-8th grade. My oldest son had a good job at a wholesale auto auction and his wife was an evening bookkeeper at a retail store and coached kids cheerleading. My youngest son, I can't quite remember, he was out of the Marines but he was either living with his brother and some other roomates, working fastfood, and in a band with the roommates, or he had just moved to Pennsylvania with half the band.
I mean, we were a pretty average family with kids leaving home and moving on with their lives.
But he financial tensions were mounting and my husband was wanting me to stop homeschooling, put Megan in public school, and find a job. He was getting rather mean in some of his arguments, and I was trying to sort out my heart. Then 9-11 happened and it felt like the world was crashing in. I gave in, and Meg went to high school and I got the only job I could find, part time retail.
But we went on and things slowly got better, except...well, once I stopped homeschooling most of the women in my church who I thought were my friends turned their backs on me. Their kids were, in the long run, even crueler to my daughter at a time when they needed her friendship the most. I hung in, kept thinking it would blow over, get better, but it got worse. I had become a stranger in the church I had attended for over 10 years. When I stopped going, no one even noticed.
But we were pulling it together, Steve was getting raises. My younger son met and married a young lady from Canada and after a few months they moved out here and he got a good job while they started working on legal residency for her. Meg graduated from High School with honors, and started community college. Mike and Michelle announced that they were expecting our first grandchild. My life had changed in many ways, but it was working out.
Then one Saturday 11 lears ago, Steve went in for overtime, had a heart attack, and died. I was devastated. Then about the time the baby was born, Mike was laid off, and ended up going into some debt to get by. He got a job as a county bus driver, but they just couldn't seem to get ahead of the debt. Just over two years after I lost my husband, Mike and Michelle came and asked if they could move in with me before they got evicted because they couldn't cover rent. I said we had to OK it with the manager, and she said fine, but they just had a tree bedroom open up, would we rather move into that.
This was a minor miracle, the three bedrooms didn't open up very often and to have one available just at that moment?
I think this was what made our new arrangement work. They weren't moving into my house where I had been the mom, we moved into a different place all together, and we made new rules as adults sharing a place, who all just happened to be family and care about the well being of a certain little girl.
There have been ups and downs and job changes since. We have moved to a complex around the corner, a four bedroom townhouse with bigger rooms and a two car garage. Megan met her love and is married now. Last year Mike and Michelle had a son. This year Megan and Marcus had one. And we are still together.
It is very expensive to live in Orange County California, but we lucked out on this place. Because it is older and can use some remodeling, we are getting it for a monthly rent more like most 2 bedrooms in the area. Michelle stays home with the babies, and Megan pays her, but much less is she had to pay for outside childcare. The kids are still everyone's priority.
And yes, we know, 8 people living in an extended family situation like this is not the norm. We do rub up against each other sometimes, but so would any roommates. But we all like so many of the same things, share a hobby, and we all love the children. I really can't imagine not being able to see these babies grow. I miss my son's family with their daughter, though I understand completely the decision they made to move back to Toronto.
But here is the sad part, we could really use some more space now, at least one more bedroom. But our family, living together in what has been the norm in many societies for thousands of years, is now considered strange. In a year or two, when the boys really have to have more space, the only way we will be able to stay together is if we can buy. Sadly, that would take the biggest miracle ever.
I know life is unpredictable, and I certainly never would have foreseen this, way back in 2000. Who knows what the next turn in the road will be. For now, I'm just going to enjoy watching these little cousins who are growing up almost like brothers, and hope that whatever comes next, they can stay close.
But I also need to mention, with all the fear in the world today, another part of this story, another reason I want to hold on tight. Michelle is Mexican-American by several generations on each side, so their two children are mixed. Marcus is African-American, And their little boy with his tea dyed complexion and, for now, gray/green eyes, is mixed. For that matter, my sweet little granddaughter learning French in Toronto is half Filipino. So I just have to put it out there, no more hate. My family structure is from the past, but I believe these children can be the beautiful future. Do what you can in the world to fill it with peace.