When Jim had reached his car he realized he had no memory of gathering his things and leaving the building. Did he even mutter a goodbye to his co-workers of 10 years? His mind was racing, to the point of having to search every pocket for his key's. "Get it together Jim" he told himself, out loud. As he began his routine ride home he barely even noticed that it had started to snow. His mind just kept distracting him with too many questions, as he fought desperately to find some answers. He pulled into his driveway, turned off the engine and just sat in the car staring at his home. His mind went numb as he reminded himself to cover the pipes and find the snow shovel buried somewhere in the garage.
That's how Beth found him. He was just sitting there, deep in thought, as the snow was covering the windshield. She tapped on the window, with just a jacket thrown over her shoulder's, as the snow began to fall harder. "Jim, are you alright?" she shouted. Jim saw the worry on her face as he turned toward her feeling the fear rise up to his throat. He quickly gathered his strength and got out of the car. "I'm OK Beth, let's get out of this cold" as they carefully went in the house.
The blood drained from Beth's face has she sat there listening to Jim. "The company had to scale back and mid-management took the biggest hit" Jim said in disbelief. "It's three weeks until Christmas Jim, the mortgage, the bills and the kids. What are we going to do?" Beth said in a panic. Jim knew they were still paying off their summer vacation, but his thoughts were of saving the house and putting food on the table. Jim had made plenty of money to make it possible for Beth to stay at home and raise their kid's. The loss of their only income and medical would hurt them. Their lifestyle was about to change drastically. They talked it through and came up with a plan.
Jim and Beth knew the plan would devastate the kids. They realized that they had protected the kids, by not explaining what was happening, when the economy started to flounder. They had also failed to set a good example about money. With a meager savings, car loans and debt, they dreaded talking to the kids. Jake was a sophomore in high school and Amy was in eighth grade. When they got home from school they felt the tension that filled their home. Jake looked from Jim to Beth, gulped and said "who died?" as he dropped his backpack at his side. "Daddy? Amy asked with fear. "No one died, but we need to talk." Jim said seriously. Jim put it all out on the table, before he brought up the plan. "Are we broke?" Jake asked calmly. "It's not that simple" Jim replied. "You can get another job, right?" Amy said hopefully. "It may take some time, baby" Jim cautiously replied. We have a plan until I get a job, but always remember we have each other.
The kids eye's bugged and jaw's dropped at the changes Jim would put into action. We must sell all but one car, no cell phone service, get basic cable, cut back on extras at the grocery store, one TV, one computer and no new clothes. We must use less electricity, water and recycle. Then I need you to go into your room's and find items you want but don't need. Your mom and I will do the same and we will have a huge garage sale. I'll be selling the boat and waverunners in the paper. "What? are you kidding me! We are going to sell our stuff on the front lawn for all to see?" Amy cried. Jake got up and said "you can't be for real" as he stomped up the stairs, slamming his door behind him. Amy looked at her mom and said "what about Christmas? choking back tears. Beth looked up at Jim with tear filled eyes and encouragement.
As Christmas drew near Jim's fear turned to pride as his family came together and grew stronger. They had so much and never noticed what they were losing in the process. Their community, extended family and friends rallied behind them. Many who were in similar circumstances sharing their own stories and solutions. Jim, Beth and Jake found seasonal jobs that helped to keep food on the table and Amy stepped up in taking care of inside the house. There was a game night and movie night on weekends with a warm fire to keep them warm. One night as Beth was drifting off to sleep when Jim said "Beth, you asleep?" Beth responded "not anymore, what wrong?" "I've never felt happier, isn't that weird?" Jim stated in a surprised tone. "It's not weird Jim, we've become a family with good neighbors and friends" Beth said proudly. "I know, but I had no idea how much stuff can cover up living happily" Jim replied. Beth said "I'll remind you of that when we get back on our feet" as she kissed him goodnight. Even as the foreclosure sign went up they knew they could start over, but better.
Christmas was full of uncertainty that year and yet it was the best they could remember. Christmas Eve they went to their first midnight service and upon leaving Amy said "I can feel real Christmas spirit here" to no one in particular. The next morning they each gave one another a letter expressing how much they meant to each other. You could hear a pin drop as Jake said "well that's enough mushy stuff" as he turned around to brush away a tear. They had decided to join their community Christmas dinner that year. Amy was drawn to the kid games and Jake helped a cute elf from school hand out gifts. Jim grabbed Beth's hand under the table with a proud squeeze. It was a wonderful Christmas.
This family got a second chance to begin again and a heartfelt winter's tale to share with generations to come.