Saturday, November 27, 2010
A Christmas Carol
Today my sons and I went into Chicago to see A Christmas Carol at the famed Goodman Theatre. The tickets were paid for by my brother. He and the rest of my sibs and their families have a tradition of doing something like this on this day. In the past, I've declined going due to finances. This year when my brother inquired if we would be able to attend, I just admitted I would be unable to afford the cost of the tickets and he offered to pick them up. Before, I may have declined but this year I accepted thinking about how long it has been since my sons and I have been to a show. When my husband was alive, taking in a show like this in the city with and without the boys was a regular activity in our lives. So I did this today for my sons - to give them something I can't right now.
The sold-out production was incredible! The sets and special effects alone were outstanding. Yes, this was a rare and special treat. Yet at the same time I struggled emotionally throughout the day. Taking the train into the city, I was struck by the suburban girls of our town, a group of which rode in with us for a fun day of shopping and chatting. They all held piping hot cups of Starbucks and I had to hold back my feelings of envy as I thought back to my last Starbucks, which was one year ago! The girls were Juniors and my youngest son blushed throughout the ride as they waved to him and said, hello. He did his best to hide on the train...
We are down to our last $20.00 before payday (Wednesday) and that went for the train tickets. Knowing we wouldn't have money to spend on food in Chicago I packed PB & J sandwiches, apples and some cinnamon pretzels I'd baked for breakfast and we ate on the train. My car is on empty and the van is low - the pantry is pretty bare. The next few days are going to be tough.
I haven't been into Chicago for about two years and getting into the station and being accosted by all the fancy food stalls did hit me. But the decorations in the station alone were delightful and I tried to enjoy them. No money for a cab so walking - but that is okay. It is just nice to know you have the funds available if you want to grab a cab. We met my brother at a cute restaurant and again, I felt sadness at not being able to afford even a drink for the boys. There was a huge sign advertising a new sandwich at Corner Bakery and I have to say I almost drooled over it (food has kind of become an obsession in my life as of late).
Leaving my family to hurry (run is more like it) to catch the earlier train back, I felt a bit more sadness that it is likely they are all going out to dinner together somewhere, while the boys and I returned home to leftover 4-Bean Chili over spaghetti. I had a migraine on the way home and was pretty miserable. Probably a combination of not eating enough, emotional tension and the mad dash to the station. I tried to block out the images of the intact families I saw on the train, especially all the moms chatting on their cells as to where their families are headed for their holiday vacations. I just reminded myself - "Don't compare yourself to them - you're not one of them anymore." It is good to get out and about in the world but the solitude of widowhood does also serve the purpose of insulation from the pain of life's discrepancies.
The message of A Christmas Carol is of course the timeless one that in the end, friendship, family, love, kindness and generosity are more important than wealth and money. Yet despite this message, this day was so full of contradictions and struggling with my situation. I think that for me I have dealt with my widowhood as best I can and pretty well. The real hardship for me has been the challenges I've faced being a poor one. There is the bizarre contradiction of being able to attend a show like this but then to have to use our last funds for the train tickets to get there. It sometimes feels like I have my feet in two different countries - the one of former suburban mom because I still am living in the community and that of widow living under extremely reduced circumstances.
Afterthought - I hope my depictions of financial struggle do not cause anyone discomfort. This blog is my way to honestly and openly deal with the struggles I have had to unfortunately face as a widow. We will make it through the next days, we always do. I do hope to someday in someway better convey to our society the difficulties some only parents face after being struck by tragedy. I have to keep in mind those in our nation suffering more than we are and to be thankful for the roof over our heads and the fact that we even have 4-Bean Chili to eat. There are always those suffering more than we and today I pray for them. Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol to better depict the plight of the poor during his time. I reflect on my oldest who recently bought the homeless man he passed dinner. Despite our hardship, he reached out and gave to someone more in need. Maybe that is what we all need to concentrate on during this season.
Poor Mom's Chili Soup for when there is nothing left in the pantry
4 Different cans of beans, don't drain (black, pinto, kidney, etc.)
1 can chicken broth
1 -2 cans chopped tomatoes (I use the ones with green chilies)
1 packet chili seasoning
1 -2 T. chocolate chips or grated chocolate
Heat, simmer and serve over rice or noodles, topped with cheese and sour cream
Makes a ton!