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America 2.0: Chapter Two

One night, two years ago, before we lived in a motor home on a golf course, my dad came home from work. He asked me and my brother to go into the den and watch TV. We had the house then and I knew he wanted to talk to my mom about something without us being nosy. Of course it had to be something bad.

My brother Will was nervous and had the same jitters lots of kids like us had back then. The whispers in the hallway like "Did you hear? So and so's dad lost his job" or "There's a foreclosure sign in front of the Smith's house". You know, the same stuff you heard every morning but tried to pretend not to listen to much less think about. Times were scary tough.

I tried not to listen because it's not nice and if it was money talk, I didn't want to because money talk was boring. And I was scared. My dad and mom both worked and harped on us about money night and day. I was afraid to mention anything having to do with money like my shoes or clothes that were getting small fearing that they would go ballistic on me like it was all my fault I grew or something.

Back then, my mom worked as a full time admin for a communications company. My dad was in sales ("he was always in sales") for a tech company which made stuff for truck companies. It was hard to explain, but he sold things they used to communicate with trucks and track their loads back then.  He had to take business trips and when he came home, complained about the cost of hotels, planes and food. Lately, Dad had not been travelling as much and we all know why. The economy stupid. We heard that enough.

Mom worked part time after having William, but two years ago, when she got the chance to go full time and get health insurance cheaper than my dad's job, she jumped on it. She started as a receptionist and then moved to chief admin for one of the big wig vice presidents. She spent most of her time planning his social life and business trips. A lot of fundraisers and dinners with big money people. The company had like a million people working for it or something.

Dad came and told William and I that he needed to talk to us so we sat down at the table in the dining room.

"You two are big enough to understand what I am going to tell you and how it will affect you. Sophie. Do you want to play basketball or volleyball? You can only pick one".


"Good. William. Soccer or baseball?"

"Why? I like both."

"Because I said so. Which one? Or do you want me to pick?".

"I hate the soccer socks, they itch. But half my baseball team is going to quit next season. They can't play anymore. So I will stick with soccer 'cause most of my friends will still be there"

"Good. Sophie, we can't afford dance any longer. I know you have a recital in May, but I am afraid we can't afford the extra classes or the costumes. I am very sorry."

I felt the tears burn in the eyes. I don't know if it was the thought of not being in the recital or how embarrassed I would be. My friends would know it would be about money. It always was.

"Did you lose your job?"

"No. But my job is going to pay less or different than it did before. Remember how I explained about commissions and draws? Well, the draw is going away. Instead I will get a single check once every three months after the customers have all paid. We have to make each of those checks stretch. You understand?"

I nodded. But the tears came out anyway.

"What about mom's job? Is she not going to get paid anymore?"

"Your mom still has her job, but the health insurance is going to get more expensive so she will bring home less money. Right now, we'll have to depend upon her regular checks to pay the mortgage and bills. There won't be much left afterward or until I get paid so we have to cut back on the extras like sports and dance."

"What about you and Mom? What are you guys giving up?" I asked

My father squirmed in his seat and later, I realized what a brat I was being that day. My parents had stopped buying anything for themselves long before that day. The beer he used to enjoy after work, playing golf, my mom going out with her friends, even extra clothes. My mother washed dad's nice dress shirts by hand and ironed them herself rather than sending them to the dry cleaners. I was such a jerk.

"We've already tightened our belt, Sophie. Look, I don't want to pull you from the things you love, but right now, we have to think about the things that really matter. When things get better, we'll get you back in dance or any other activity you want to do. But not until things get better, okay?" he said.  

"Are we going to have to move? Are we going to get foreclosed?" asked my brother.

"Not right now, William. We will cross that bridge if it comes to it but as long as we are all together we will be fine"

I left the table and went to my room and cried. I was looking forward to the recital in May and had four different dances I was part of. Now that horrible Grace Finley was going to get my spots and she was sure to rub it in my face at school. I hate money.

Mom called us to dinner, but I don't remember what we had that night.

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