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Christmas tree clothes, part 2

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

So began the lives of another family, gripped by poverty and circumstance.

As the early years passed, Donna seemed to be on a never-ending path of having babies, a frequently drunk husband and never having enough food, or money to pay the bills. There were five kid’s mouths to feed and the continual struggle to keep up with them, as their mother seemed aged well-beyond her 27 years. She was seemingly trapped, in this never-ending cycle, and felt cursed in finding a solution.

The “Holiday Season” had rarely been a favorite time of the year for anyone in this family.

In reality, it had become one of the most dreaded. Beginning with the Thanksgiving meal, which was often provided by a charity, the onset of “Black Friday,” and “Cyber Monday,” were as strange to them as any Greek words. The following days only heightened their sense of the desperate situation they were in, with the TV constantly blaring the message, “Buy more!”  The children had long given up asking for even the basics, as the answer was always, “We don’t have the money.”

That day was not a particularly noteworthy day. Outside it was just above freezing and the skies were gray. A stiff wind was coming out of the West, rattling the windows on the old, rented trailer. Inside, David was laying on the couch, lubricating his bruised ego with another Quarter Beer. It was his seventh in the past hour. He felt the need, as he had been fired from his job at the recycling plant. To him, it was “no big deal,” as this had happened before and he was indifferent to it being so close to Christmas.

At around four in the afternoon, Donna had come home from her restaurant job, and saw the ancient truck in the driveway. It gave her a queasy feeling deep in the pit of her stomach. It was as though she had been conditioned to expect disappointment and her boyfriend could not have delivered it at a more inopportune moment. Entering the trailer through the side door, she was greeted by the sight of  David’s weak smile, as he toasted her presence with yet another bottle of suds. Perhaps the only wise thing that was done this day, was sending the kids over to their grandparents’ home. At least they were not around for what happened next.

They had frequently argued; mostly about money, jobs and beer. This time Donna had had enough, even though she had done her own part to create the scene. “David! This the fourth time this year that you are out of a job. I can’t take this anymore. We have no money, lots of bills to pay, there is almost no food in the house and all the kids need clothes. Have you seen their shoes lately?”

Getting a shrug from her boyfriend, the demand came quickly, “Now, get out!”

Not used to such strength in his girlfriends’ demeanor, the drunk slowly propped himself up on his elbow, slurring, “You can’t talk to me like that! Who do you think you are?” Words flew back and forth, as the anger between them rose. Finally standing up, a wobbly David staggered towards Donna. Quickly raising his fist, he struck her cheek, just below her left eye, knocking her down. Realizing what he had just done, and knowing of his problems with the law in the past, David quickly left the trailer, jumped into his truck and sped down the gravel drive. Donna was crying softly, holding her bruised cheek, when she called the police.

A report and pictures led to a warrant being issued. It did not take long to track David down to his brother’s apartment. Soon arrested, it was clear that the relationship was over. Once again, the young mother was very alone, this time with five kids, no money, and Christmas.