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The Sins of Our Fathers; Chapter Six
She Decided to Save Herself
After earning her GED, Claire worked every day, sometimes two shifts. She had nothing to spend her money on, as her parents took care of her basic needs, so she saved. Claire saved nearly every dime she earned, for nearly two years, focusing on that magic day in June, when she would turn 18. She was not saving for a church mission. She was not saving for the needy. Claire had decided to save herself.
Her 18th birthday seemed anti-climactic, after working so hard to get there. Claire still behaved as the obedient daughter, but inside she sensed freedom just around the corner. On her birthday, her mom wished her a happy birthday at breakfast. Craig, busy getting ready for family devotional, hardly seemed to notice when she came to the table. As usual, Christopher joined them for breakfast. When Theresa was at school early every morning, she dropped her son off for Melissa to tend. Now that summer vacation had started, Melissa had agreed to continue watching Christopher. They all agreed, with phony smiles pasted on their sanctimonious faces, that continuity would be best for both boys. Claire knew the truth about Craig, and Theresa and Christopher, and she didn’t like it.
The week before, the families had celebrated Christopher’s fifth birthday at the Newell’s home. Theresa’s husband, Chris, sat uncomfortably at one end of the table, while Craig reigned over the family from the other. Dinner seemed strained, and the adults hardly spoke, leaving most of the conversation to the five-year old’s, and the girls.
Rachel baked a cake; a chocolate one that tilted comically to one side. She led the family in singing Happy Birthday to Christopher and seemed unfazed by the uncomfortable silence. Now, Rachel at thirteen was more of a mom than either Theresa or Melissa.
On Claire’s birthday, both Christopher and Isaac sat at the table, dark eyes bleary with sleep, ready for breakfast.
Rachel bounced in, smiles and hugs and “Happy Birthday big sister.”
She hugged Claire, and then danced around the table to hug their father.
“Well good morning, sunshine,” he smiled, “how’s my favorite girl?”
“I’m great. School will finish in another week, and its June, and sunny, and, it’s my big sister’s birthday. It’s a perfect day,” Rachel chirped.
Inside, Claire seethed at his indifference to her.
After breakfast, the family sang “Happy Birthday” before beginning morning devotional. Craig read quickly through the bible and memory verse, and then told Melissa that he had no time for journaling. He wanted to reinstitute family devotionals when summer vacation started, because he said, “Summer is no excuse to let your brain go to sleep. It’s important that you all keep those verses fresh in your minds, because you never know when Satan will attack.”
Craig had attended exactly two of the morning devotionals, before shrugging them off as casually as a worn pair of socks.
“I can catch up at work,” he said, rising from the table.
“Dad. Wait. I have something I’d like to discuss with the family, before you go.”
“Claire, can it wait? I have an important meeting this morning with Miss White, and I don’t want to keep her waiting. She has students.”
“Fine. Dad. Mom. Rachel.” Claire looked around the table, mustering her courage.
“Boys. Everyone, I am moving out. I’ve been saving money and studying for college courses. I applied to the University of Colorado last winter and I got accepted. I start in August. I’m going to look at the dorms in July.”
Claire waited quietly for the fallout.
She had been planning her big move all spring. When her acceptance letter arrived in the mail, she was elated, until she realized that she had no one to share the news with.
Her parents, after all, had no clue about what she wanted to do with her life. Instead, she took it to work, where the proud waitresses congratulated her and bought her a celebratory ice cream Sunday. Her favorite, chocolate, piled high with nuts and fruit and whipped cream. They celebrated with Claire, the fact that she might escape the vortex of the restaurant business. With her work friends, Claire felt she could accomplish anything.
Now, reality came crashing down around her carefully laid plans. Her family did not share her friend’s elation. They sat stunned for a moment, before Craig broke the silence.
“Is that right?” Craig sneered, incredulous.
“Since when do you make announcements like that at the breakfast table, young lady? Just because you are having a birthday, doesn’t mean you can just move out. Where would you get that kind of money? And who gave you permission?”
“Actually, daddy, I don’t need your permission anymore. I’m 18 today. And I’ve been saving my money for over two years now. I have over $50,000 in a bank account. I’m ready for college. If it isn’t enough, I think I could qualify for a student loan. And, I got a “Women in Engineering” scholarship because of my high math scores. It’s all set up.”
Both parents looked shocked: the large sum of money; the defiant attitude; college. It was too much for them to take in so unexpectedly.
“What do you mean, $50,000? Where would a kid get that kind of money?”
“Dad, I’ve been working for over two years. I don’t have a car. I don’t have rent. I don’t buy food. I saved every penny, so I could go to college. Did you even know I started waiting tables? I make great money. I don’t just get paid by the hour, but I get tips too. And sometimes I make more than a hundred dollars a day, depending how busy we are. And the restaurant said I could transfer to Boulder store once school starts.”
“Well. You sound like you have a plan. Good luck.”
With that, Craig scooted his chair away from the table and left the room. He kissed Melissa, Rachel and both boys, and then stood looking at Claire.
“Well, I guess now you can wear your hats.”
He didn’t look back as he left for work.
To read Chapter Seven of The Sins of Our Fathers
To read Chapter Five of The Sins of Our Fathers