Christmas was different that year. Not bad, not good, just different. A few years ago, I would have asked for a bike, clothes, hair stuff, shoes, to get my ears pierced, girly stuff. I still want all that, I just want to know where all that stuff is going to come from and how we are going to pay for it.
Now, I am just happy we have a place to live. But boo hoo. My friend Stephanie left school. Her father and mother were moving the whole family to Greenville to live with her grandparents. Steph was so cool and I probably will never see her again.
First, we got to go see my grandparents in San Antonio. It seemed pretty easy to do. "We'll just drive the house down there!" said William.
We could have, but that would have messed up some stuff, so instead, we took mom's Lexus. It was in pretty rough shape by then, so dad put an ad online for a Lexus mechanic and got it looked over.
The guy did not have a shop, but worked out of his "home" - a storage unit. He had most of his shop tools from the Lexus dealership he used to work at before it went out of business. Now he advertised online and could do most repairs.
He got the car up to snuff enough for the drive down to San Antonio. We left on Tuesday and had to be back by Friday because of the restrictions on weekend gas sales.
Gas was till a problem. Dad says we can drill, baby, drill, but most of our gas still came from other places. The Saudi's had a bunch of our debt before the crash and took their debt settlement in military hardware, direct military aid (U.S. soldiers using the new Saudi military hardware) and food. Seems the rest of the world was hoarding their most valuable resources and food prices were going up.
So we sent the Saudis rice, wheat, chicken, beef, sugar and other stuff they can't grow in the desert and they sent us unrefined oil. The military tossed out that the Saudis could not refine the oil for our vehicles correctly and bumped the price down ten percent. That's at least what the guy said on Air Force News at Ten.
End of the day, the U.S. still got oil from Saudi Arabia and Canada, but things were almost always messed up in the supply chain. That's what dad said. He said once the military figures out they can make a heck of a lot more money letting civilians transport goods again, it will get better.
We saw a lot of the military that week. Grandpa and grandma lived on what's called a "refurbed" military base in San Antonio. My Grandpa served in the Air Force for over 25 years before working for the post office. When his government pension went away, he and Grandma were allowed to move a trailer onto the base and live there rent free. They got to see a military doctor whenever they wanted to and got free food, electricity and other stuff.
Grandpa said there about twenty five thousand veterans and their wives living on the base. Unless their kids were underage, adopted or handicapped, they could not live with them.
Grandpa showed us where all the new soldiers lived. The military regularly posted requests for former military service members in good health and under the age of 50 who wanted to return to service. There was a waiting list.
We did not get much from the grandparents that year. No bright shiny toys for William. No fun clothes for me. Not even a Christmas card with a hole in the middle so you could see the money tucked inside.
Grandma made dinner on Thursday, but Christmas was supposed to be on Saturday this year, but we would not be there so we moved it up a few days. Grandpa and Grandma got a whole chicken, a dozen ears of corn, ten pounds of potatoes, fresh cranberries, a pumpkin and a ten pounds of green beans in their Christmas commodity box from Uncle Whiskers (as Grandpa called him). They already had salt, sugar, and other stuff. Dad snuck out and bought a second bird and some marshmallows from another trailer nearby.
We made a big traditional Christmas feast. Dad and Mom gave William and I a bag with oranges, hard candy and a CD of books they burned. William and I gave Mom and Dad a picture of the old house with us in front of it. I took it on my digital camera after my basketball team won the division championship that year. Mom left the room to check on something real quick after that. Dad gave me a hug.
I gave Grandma a package of soap and Grandpa a big bag of socks I bought at the BX that morning. I had my wallet of babysitting money with me and wanted to do something nice for them. The socks were knitted by some spec shop in Pennsylvania called Amish. The soap was made by a co-op in Oregon.
"Do you get to shoot guns, Grandpa?"
"Nope, those days are done for me, William"
"What do you get to do, then?"
"Not much. Your grandmother and I just try and stay busy. They have a shared garden we got a plot on and we can go to the BX and kill time, but there's not a whole lot to do around here"
"Um, Dad, how are you and Mom on money?"
"Well, we had cash hidden in the bread box (my Grandmother's favorite place to hide cash) and we sold some jewelry, but other than that, the rest got wiped out. I was hoping the military would have some sort of pension plan for old GI's like me, but they only got what they do. We don't need much, but Mama and I have both been looking for a part time job around here for cash".
I knew my mom wanted to give Grandna and Grandpa some of the money she and dad had saved up. But that was hard considering how tough we have it. Before we left, I saw my dad slide Grandpa a handful of Wheat and Steel bucks outside.
"Why can't they come live with us?"
"Where are they going to sleep William? On the roof? We don't exactly have a lot of room at Chez Anderson on Wheels do we?"
"Sophie. Put a lid on it. William. If we had the space and if your grandparents would be willing, we would bring your grandparents home today."
We left the last checkpoint outside of San Antonio and hurried up 35 for home.
About halfway home, outside Temple, we came to a big checkpoint.
"Um, I am armed."
"So am I. What's your point?"
"I read online that when civilians approach a checkpoint, they are to inform the soldiers on duty that they are armed and to be ready to present their weapons."
"Don't believe everything you read online, sir. Besides, I already have a gun and so do all the other soldiers here. We don't want to take yours.
Where are you folks heading?"
"Dallas area, actually just north."
"Are we bad guys mister?"
"Not unless you know something I don't partner. Anyway, bad guys wear black masks, don't they?"
William had nothing to day back at the soldier. He just sat there in the back seat like kids do.
"Say, officer, seargent.."
"Sorry, corporal, is there any place to fuel up near here. We are down to a quarter of a tank."
"There is an emgergency fuel station setup about a half mile up the road. Five gallons a vehicle. Then there's a real gas station on the other side of town. Two actually. No limit on fuel, just what you can pay for."
"Thanks, you have a good day."
"Do the same."
We made it to the fuel station where two of the oldest soldiers (mom said they were privates) I had ever seen poured five gallons in our car, slapped the trunk to get us moving and sent us down the road.
"What's going on dad? Why are the soldiers out here?"
"They are everywhere kiddo. Just like back in San Antonio. Just doing their job I guess."