Mattie (Monday Writing Essential)

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on August 17, 2011 0 Comments

Christmas was the time of year that was exceptionally difficult for Mattie, both financially and emotionally. In 1962, there wasn’t much assistance for a divorced woman. Maybe at that time there weren’t enough of them. Most people simply looked the other way. That didn’t help Mattie’s five children. Christmas was only a couple of days away, and they still expected Santa to come. Mattie was determined, as she was every year, that he would. “Things always seem to have a way of working themselves out,” Mattie said to herself.

She walked with her children to the neighborhood grocery store, hoping to have enough food stamps to purchase a nice Christmas dinner. She found the turkey, stuffing ingredients, cranberry sauce and even yams for Emma. Emma was the only one who liked yams, so it would make more sense not to buy them. But Emma’s smile was a gift in itself for Mattie, so she added them to her grocery cart.

They reached the check-out line and stood waiting. It pleased Mattie how well-behaved her children were, not disturbing anyone or messing up the displays of gum and candies. They even knew better than to ask if they could have any. Other children were running around like wild banshees. Just as she reached the front of the line, Mattie realized that Mrs. Silverstone, a neighbor who lived down the street, was in line right behind her. They exchanged polite greetings. Mattie told her children she had forgotten an important item, and they got out of line and pushed their cart down to the detergent aisle. After a while, Mattie got back in line. She hadn’t really forgotten anything. She hadn’t wanted Mrs. Silverstone to see her using food stamps. Even though she couldn’t have gotten by without them, Mattie despised the idea of needing them, and was embarrassed that she did. She felt the fewer people that knew, the better.

After the groceries were packaged up, Mattie distributed the brown paper bags among her children according to the weight they could carry. They walked all the way home, like a mother duck with her ducklings trailing behind her. Mentally she was calculating her bank balance. She smiled to herself.

After the items were put away, and the sun was beginning to set, Mattie asked her children if they wanted to go down to the Christmas tree lot. All of the children whooped and cheered and jumped up and down. They streamed out of the house and half-ran, half walked the few blocks to the lot. The smell of fresh cut pine was intoxicating. After much discussion to reach agreement about the perfect tree, a 6’ bushy one was selected and paid for. The lot worker offered to tie it onto their car, but Mattie declined. There was no car.

They laid the tree on its side. With Mattie at the front, they each grabbed hold of a part of the tree trunk, alternating along the sides. It wasn’t very heavy when they carried it like this, and their faces were close to that wonderful scent. It was dark, and cold, as they walked home carrying their special tree. Her children began to sing Christmas carols, and Mattie smiled and said to herself, “Things always seem to have a way of working themselves out.”

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Today’s challenge: write about a day in the life of someone who is poor – but here is the twist – make it a good day.

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