When the layoffs came to Aaron's work in May of this year, we were not surprised. The corporation that owned the school had been in the news for at least 14 months. Their fraudulent dealings and misuse of Federal education funds, and falsified data had been reported nationally for months. In October of last year the school was sold to a nonprofit organization. The new organization met with personnel, stating that they "had no plans to lay off employees."
But we knew. The fraudulent corporation had made the decision to fire all recruiters for the school in 2011. By the fall of 2013 the student body had dropped more than 80%. It's not really good business practice to hire a large number of instructors for very few students.
So we were prepared. And when the news came in May, Aaron felt confident that he would find a job in a couple of months and all would be well.
And now it is nearing the end of November. No job. No scheduled interviews. No responses to the many, many applications he has submitted. For awhile there were interviews that ended in no job offers. Aaron's last interview was two weeks ago. Now there is nothing.
Alex is worried about Christmas. He, too, was out of work for about nine months, and now, even though he is employed and looking at the possibility of a very good new job, he's behind on many of his bills and has little money to spare.
Natalie, too, is struggling. Her job pays so little that she would be unable to support herself if she were not living at home. She's seeking employment elsewhere, also with little luck.
Chris has had financial ups and downs in the past six months, as well. Currently, he's employed and liking his job, but the time period when he was between jobs was recent. January will bring financial relief, but November and December will bring little wiggle room in his budget.
So we had a family meeting. And we talked about what it would mean to not give generous gifts at Christmas time. Alex thinks we should just postpone Christmas until May. Natalie is mostly silent. Chris says he doesn't care.
I have money put away for stockings (something the kids say is very important - and as adults, the tradition has been that everyone contributes). I have budgeted enough for a gift or two for Aaron and the kids. It doesn't feel like a big deal to me, but I've never been one who cares about lots of gifts. I have personal reasons for this.
It doesn't feel tragic to me that gifts will be sparse this year. I told my kids that the day is coming - quickly - when we won't have Christmas together anymore. So this year is important to me. We're all here. We plan to spend time celebrating during the month of December. We'll have our "What would Jesus eat" meal on Christmas Eve. We'll make pastries and Christmas cookies. We'll play games and sing and make Aaron crazy with the continuous stream of Christmas music in our usually silent home. We'll tell silly jokes and make blanket forts and read books even though we're all grown up. We'll probably watch a Christmas movie or two.
And while I would give every child of mine every item on their Christmas list, were I financially able, that's not what I would remember in the months after Christmas anyway. I'll be remembering that I have had the privilege to raise three of the finest human beings I've ever met. I'll be glad that they still think it's cool to spend time with Mom, and they make time to do that - not just at Christmas, but throughout the year. I'll be remembering that regardless of what is happening in the world, there is a small corner of Peace on Earth in my home, and that each of my children harbors love for all God's children. Their love allows for different beliefs and traditions and accepts that disagreement is a springboard for learning. In short, I don't really care about the stuff that comes in pretty packages. My children - the people they have become - are gift enough.
Having said that, I recognize the difference between Chrismas as a 20-something person and Christmas as a 40-something person. So I'm trying to think of ways to make this not just an enjoyable Christmas, but one that is memorable in ways that are different from those that are traditional. And in the meantime, I would love it if Aaron's Christmas surprises included a new job. I'm guessing that won't come from Santa. I stopped believing in him many years ago.