November 12, 2008
By Sarah McGriff, Naperville, IL

I turn the doorknob on the door in the garage and barge into the kitchen.

“I’m home!” I yell as I am greeted by the sight of my sister, Katie, sitting at the kitchen table munching on a chocolate chip granola bar.

“Hi,” she says as she is chewing, mouth half full. “I think Mom’s in the office.”

I stride towards the open door of the office, bringing along my blue tote bag that contains all of my schoolwork. I make a left turn into the office…and my dad is sitting in a chair, staring at the computer.

“Hello?” I say hesitantly, slightly caught off guard by my dad’s presence. What the …what’s he doing home?

“Hi, Sarah. How was your day?”

“Fine,” I say slowly, creasing my brow in confusion.

“Did you get a lot of homework?” my dad says, turning in his chair to look back at the site he was using on computer screen.

“Yeah, but I’m going to grab a snack first,” I say, walking over to my desk and dropping everything that I’m carrying with a thud that seems to ripple through the wood floor. I try to walk fast, scurrying out of the room as to avoid any more oncoming questions. Why’s he here? Maybe just…no, he went to Iowa last week…Dad’s here because got a day off? I guess…

I open the door of the refrigerator and a cold whoosh of artic air flies past my shoulder and intermixes into the atmosphere of the kitchen. I skim over the assorted number of boxed, wrapped, and homemade food that my family has crammed into our refrigerator. Just as I am reaching for my favorite yogurt, piña colada with pineapple chunks, my mom walks into the kitchen from our family room.

“Hello, missy,” she says with a smile, “How was school?”

“Good,” I reply as I close the door, grasping in my hand my afternoon snack. “I got ninety-eight percent on a math quiz we had today.” I walk over to the other side of the kitchen and begin to rummage through the silverware, looking for a spoon.

“That’s good news,” my mom says over the clinking of forks and spoons. “Don’t forget that you have plans with Shannon to go see a movie tonight. What are you going to wear?”

“Probably just this,” I say motioning to the navy blue volleyball tee shirt and jeans that I had thrown on that morning. I yank off the pink foil lid on my yogurt and lick off the creamy bits that were stuck on it.

“Sarah, I just bought you some new clothes that you said you had to have for the beginning of ninth grade. Don’t tell me you aren’t going to wear them,” my mom remarks.

“Don’t worry,” I say assuredly, “I’ll wear them eventually.”

“Okay then,” my mom declares, a tone of doubt in her voice. “After you are finished eating, start working on your homework.”

I plop down into the chair my sister was sitting in earlier, grab the newspaper from the other end of the table, and begin to indulge myself in my snack and stories of other people and places.

I sit at my desk in the office with the overhead lights glaring down on me like they glare on a prisoner in a cell. The angle bisector indicates…congruency…no, wait, yes. If those two angles congruent then this one has to be… I look away from my homework as I hear two voices in the kitchen talking and my sister pounding away loudly on the piano. The noises flow through my head, float inside, and empty out again.

Well, in the downtown office…E, D, C#, F#, C…What does that mean for us and how…louder, softer, louder softer…I don’t know but…E, D, C#, F#, C…we can tell the girls…E, D, C#, F#, C…Katie, Sarah, please come here…Katie and Sarah, will you please come here…Katie! Sarah!

I fall back into reality and realize that my parents are calling both my sister and I from the kitchen. The music stops and I lay my pencil down next to my geometry textbook. I walk into the kitchen as my sister enters through another hallway.

“What did you need us for?” I ask, leaning on the kitchen island counter by propping my face up on both my elbows. We probably got in trouble or forgot something. There is a moment of silence where my dad turns to glance at my mom. Within seconds, they have had a whole silent conversation with their eyes and I felt as if I was eavesdropping when I could tell that what we had been called for wasn’t your typical parenting spiel.

“Sarah, Katie,” my mom stated calmly, “Today Dad found out that his job is being eliminated.”

My breath caught and my heart skipped a beat. But he’s regional manager. He’s a financial advisor and near the top. How could this…how? Financial industry isn’t doing well, but…

“Now, we don’t need to worry. We can get insurance and other things through my job. It’ll all be fine—,” my mom’s sentence gets cut off by my dad.

“Plus, I’ll be home more and able to help out more with the house and you girls,” he says evenly.

I almost wanted to laugh. How can everything be fine? I felt as if I had been walking on water, my life had been fine and dandy, and now I was crashing through, submerged. What about stuff I want to buy? I’m going to movies tonight, I need five bucks. What about clothes we just bought? I was forced to think about all the things I had thought I needed and then never used, that new game or that itchy sweater that looked good on me. I stood in the kitchen as the black waters of guilt drowned me. I know we aren’t going homeless or anything… I was thankful for that, but I couldn’t believe how cavalier my spending was. I wanted to go hug that neglected stuffed animal sitting in the corner of my room or give away some of the books I never read anymore to my younger cousins. I was being so wasteful and I didn’t even acknowledge it! I thought than nothing bad in the world could ever touch me, but know that it had, I realized that I had to start appreciating all the things I had and understand that they were hard earned with many hours of work. After all, money doesn’t just grow on trees.

“Oh my gosh, Sarah, you have to be at Shannon’s in fifteen minutes,” my mom said. “Go get ready. I put five dollars on the counter.”

I quickly ran over to my dad and hugged him. “I’m glad you’ll be home more,” I told him happily. Then I jogged through the family room and took the stairs up two steps at a time. Upon reaching my room, I flicked on the closet lights and searched for my brand new, unworn, pink top. Nope, not it, no, no, there it is! My fingers touched the soft cotton and I slid the shirt off the white, plastic hanger. Before going to the bathroom to change, I walked over to the mirror this is opposite my closet. The girl there on the other side was not smiling, but her mom was right. She was going to be okay.

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