This post is not happy-fun-giddy, laugh-out-loud funny, or insightful by any means.
This is a true story.
It was almost midnight. Most likely a Tuesday because recycling pick-up was on a Wednesday in my area. Of course, it could have been another night... we were out almost every night.
We had stood in the kitchen minutes before, preparing. Shake'n'Bake was bundled tightly against my chest in her snowsuit and baby backpack, zipped all the way under my winter coat. She was sleeping.
He had a camping backpack on his back. So did I. It gave us lots of storage. I looked around and picked up the grocery bag full of bags. I had gotten these the previous Saturday, standing in line at the foodbank for hours. Alone. Making excuses to the church volunteers as to why our welfare money was gone already, trying to get the most food that they would give us.
There was never enough food.
I stuffed the plastic bags in my pockets. This way our backpacks wouldn't smell like beer from the leaking bottles and cans. My hands would though. My hands always smelled like the old beer from other people's castoffs.
How did I get here?
I took a deep breath and we were out the door. He pulled the wagon since I was carrying Shake'n'Bake. My poor baby. Those nights were so cold. I zipped my winter coat all the way up and over her head to keep her warm. It was so difficult to bend down and sort through recycling boxes with her strapped to my chest, but I had to do it.
We had to eat.
I hope she never remembers those nights.
When the welfare check came every month, it just barely covered rent. I would magically scrape together enough money (from selling off my possessions) to pay the bills, and then there would be nothing left for food. Since Shake'n'Bake was still breastfed, we didn't have to worry about buying baby food...it was just the two of us who were starving.
I was losing weight.
I wasn't working because I was on maternity leave. That, and he wouldn't let me. I should have been stronger. I always told myself I would be stronger than that, but it snuck up on me. Suddenly I wasn't a person anymore, I wasn't allowed to make my own decisions, have my own friends, go anywhere on my own.
It was all so sudden.
He wasn't working because he didn't want to... I mean, "because of the recession". What a pile of bull. I never want to hear those words again.
The beer bottles stunk.
I would pour out anything left in the bottom, and then fill my grocery bags one by one. Once a bag was filled then it would go into my backpack and I would open a new grocery bag.
It was so cold and dark.
We were out at night because it was stealing.
Once a box is on the curb, it becomes property of the city. So we would steal the bottles and cans. Take them in the night like raccoons rifling through garage cans. Foraging to get by.
I knew that at the end of the week, we would strap all of the bottles and cans we had collected into the wagon and make the one hour walk to the Beer Store to return them.
How much money would I have for groceries this week?
thirty five dollars?
It was never enough.
I was so hungry.
I watched him sprint excitedly across the street to another recycling box. "Wine bottles! And lots of them!" he exclaimed excitedly, his eyes open wide and eager - like a child on Christmas. He loved this.
And I hated him.
And I began planning to leave.