Before AmeriCorps, part 3

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“I’m sorry. If I had a job, this wouldn’t happen.”

My mom cried onto my shoulder while she hugged me. We just found out that in order to join AmeriCorps NCCC, I would need to pay $25 to get my finger prints to send to the AmeriCorps headquarters in Iowa. She held me so tight and I could feel my shirt starting to get wet from her tears. My mom was a successful insurance agent at a well known insurance company. Things were doing so good, she quit to start her own insurance business. This was a few months before the big recession hit. We found out that the company she got the business loan from was a scam and she was never able to successfully start her business and, instead, left us with a bunch of debt. This was her second year without a job. At night I could hear her crying through the bedroom walls and I would cry with her without her knowing. Because of this, my mom blamed everything on her not having a job. The stars could have fell out of the sky that night and my mom would have still said, “If I had a job, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Joining AmeriCorps NCCC became my life goal. I thought, “I don’t want to be a nobody like my ex. If I join AmeriCorps, I will make my parents proud.”

If I didn’t pay the $25 and send the prints in in time, I wouldn’t be able to join. I remember the days when $25 used to be nothing, but now it’s everything. $25 now to us might as well be $50.

We pulled a desperate move. I woke up one day and my mom had a crazy look in her eye. Crazy with joy. We rummaged the house for anything we thought was valuable and stacked it all up in the back of the car. My sewing machine (that I never learned how to use, but somehow never wanted to give away because “I will learn one day”, I would say), my guitar (never learned how to use this either, but kept it for the same reasons), some early 90’s looking fax machine, and my mothers most prized possession: her mothers jewelry. I looked at her surprised with a “please don’t sell it expression on my face” and she nodded with a smile. My grandma passed away a few years ago and my mom has been torn up about it ever since.

We hopped in the car and, for the first time in our lives, rode to a pawn shop and one of those “We buy gold here!” shops. We went in just as fast as we came out. Apparently, the jewelry isn’t worth the shit off our shoes and the rest totaled to barely $20.

I’m not selling my prized guitar (from Walmart, btw) for $10, I thought.

We turned up our nose and jumped back in the car with much less excitement than we started with. We were hoping for at least $100. When we got home, we looked at each other and laughed.

Me, the college drop out, and, my mom, the unemployed senior. We never in our lives thought that we would live like this. Pretty soon, the trash man stopped coming to pick up our trash because we couldn’t pay him anymore so we had to take our own trash to a place to dispose of it. Our lights went out at times, we barely had any food, and the hot water stopped working. It sounds depressing, but I always saw lights out days as family fun days. I loved curling up in a blanket reading by candlelight and talking with my family. When the lights go out, people change.

We lived paycheck to paycheck on my dad’s salary. He was the only person paying the bills in our 3 person household (my brother moved out). To make matters worse, my dads health was slowly declining and he could barely walk on his right leg- the very leg that he uses for work. My dad drives for a living for a healthcare company. If my dads leg goes out, we are through.

Luckily, we were able to manage $25 out of my dads paycheck to get my finger prints and send them into AmeriCorps NCCC, but did they arrive in time?

I received an e-mail from AmeriCorps telling me that my application was declined.

My whole world fell apart when I read that. Which brings me back to my mom crying on my shoulder telling me this wouldn’t have happened if she had a job and, in return, I cried thinking this wouldn’t have happened if I had a job. I cried with her and told her it wasn’t her fault. We did all we could do. I called AmeriCorps to see if they may have made a mistake and, for a second, I almost started to believe in God again.

They actually admitted to making a mistake on my application and changed my “decline” status to “pending”. My family breathed the biggest sigh of relief and it was such a happy moment. Pending isn’t accepted, but anything is better than declined.

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