When Jimmy Carter became president in 1976, many events and hardships followed. The list is long, infuriating, and filled with needs that stuck us hard in many ways, mostly our pockets.
In those years of his presidency, inflation rose, interest rates soared, and our family needs increased. Our baby Mary was born on New Year’s Eve in 1980, just when we felt our bank account echoed like an empty canyon.
John worked at a property management company, collecting rents, evicting, arranging for repairs. With the rough economy, apartments stood empty and renters did not pay.
Our income shrank. Details aren't important, but December was. We could stretch our money only so far, and Christmas was beyond our stretching reach. Facing each other the day after Thanksgiving as we decorated our Kmart artificial tree, the question hung in the air silently. What are we going to do?
Erin was five, Johnny was three, and Mary was one—the older two danced around the lighted tree, laughing as we were almost crying. What are we going to do?
A coin jar was on a dresser, where we had emptied pockets of coins from pockets over the past two years. Maybe? In a quiet house, John dumped coins onto the kitchen table and we began counting. Stacks of quarters were few, followed by more stacks of dimes and nickels, but the pennies were a sea across the table.
Fifty two dollars and some cents. That was all we had. Every penny. We leaned back in our chairs and considered what we could do.