By Kim MiLee
Yesterday I sold the goblets for 10 dollars. I have been using them since 1992. They're not expensive crystal, but simple glass with a twisted stem that you could pick up at any discount store. They started out as a set of 12 but over the years a few broke, were replaced, and broke again. My family has had birthday, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, graduation, going-away, dinner, house-warming and New Year's Eve parties with those goblets. But goblets go with houses and we will no longer have ours.
Like the Joads before us, we are moving out West because we have no job offers here and the snow is going to fly within the next month or so, attended by an extra gas bill that we will not be able to afford on my part-time income. Although we could stay in the house until January, the rising utility costs combined with less-than-anticipated income will put us in a position where we will have to choose between groceries and paying the electric bill. My husband Shawn, a part-time plumbing instructor and out-of-work master plumber, received news that his fall and winter classes had been canceled due to low enrollment. I suppose if there are no plumbing jobs, why would anyone pursue the trade? We were hoping that two part-time jobs could keep us in the Twin Cities metro, but alas ... that was the last nail in the Cambridge coffin for us.
Although moving out West is a huge risk, we calculate that it will be worth it for the road trip and climate alone -- in place of six months of gas bills we would only be paying three. It was always in the back of our minds that we might be able to retire there someday, and circumstances as they are, we will make the move as a start-over. Shawn also suspects there is more plumbing work to be had there, and I will wait tables if I have to (or flip burgers, cashier, greet customers, etc.).
Of course I would much rather serve the community in ways that are badly needed -- in the areas of education, homelessness, domestic violence, or family health -- but I fear the funds and capacity may be drying up all over the country due to tight state and local budgets.
It's curious that we have never been so unattached to a community as we are now: There was always a house, job or community to keep us tied to a place, but not today. The jobs are gone. The houses are empty. The community is fractured: People have gone, and those left behind are having their pockets wrung out to make up for the lost revenue. It's as if we are geographically free.
My son, Conner, is having a birthday party this coming weekend with no goblets. It will have to be paper cups, plates and napkins. We are packing up everything else. Goblets go with houses and we will have to get used to not having ours.
Kim MiLee, an advocate for victims of domestic violence, is a source in MPR's Public Insight Network.