BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — For many people, the holiday season is the best time of year. It means heaps of presents, free time and dinners that will give way to leftovers until February.
But did you ever imagine what it’s like to take a walk in someone else’s Christmas stockings?
Chrissie is a teenage girl with a 19-month-old baby to support. It’s not always easy, she explained recently. But to make matters worse, her mother — who’s been supporting her financially — has just lost her job.
Hopefully, said Chrissie, her mother will find another position soon.
“In the meantime, we’ll just have to limit off what we have,” she said.
What they have is not a lot. While Chrissie and her family have most of the necessities, she said, there is just not enough extra money to spend on luxuries that other people take for granted.
Christina said she would like to have her nails done.
But because that’s not a necessity, “That’s at the end of the list.”
The Tattoo’s Christmas Presence aims to help teens like Chrissie identified by social service agencies as especially needy. The teen journalists who write for The Tattoo hope that warm-hearted readers will respond with donations or cash to help Chrissie and other teens have a merrier Christmas.
Chrissie’s name and perhaps some identifying details have been changed to protect her privacy. But she is a real teen who lives in Bristol.
It would be difficult enough if it were just Chrissie and her mom, but having a child to care for too is especially hard.
“It gets really frustrating sometimes,” she said.
One worry she deals with is her son’s health, she explained. When the baby is sick, he gets upset and won’t eat or sleep, she said.
In case of extreme illness or injury, Chrissie has state insurance for her son, she said, because, “They pay for everything.”
She does not receive any money or food stamps, but, she said, “I made sure I got the medical.”
Then there’s just keeping the baby happy, often by playing with him with his toys, Chrissie said.
Sometimes she takes him for walks to the park, she said.
Christina was in the Young Parents Program from the time she was seven months pregnant un-til the end of school that year, she said.
After she left the program, she went to Bristol Eastern High School for a year, she said. But now Chrissie is at Bristol Central High School, because it has a baby room, she said. The baby room is a classroom where students’ children can play during the school day, she explained.
High school is keeping Chrissie very busy, she said, and with a baby it’s even tougher to get the work done.
“English is the worst,” she said, because the teacher assigns too much reading. Chrissie loves science, but says algebra II has her so confused that she’s “lost in the clouds right now.”
“School is the most important thing to me,” she said.
She wants to go to college so she can live comfortably as a dental hygienist, she said.
Between school and taking care of the baby, Chrissie doesn’t have much free time for herself, she said.
But luckily her family is there to help.
Her brother and sisters are always ready to watch her son for her when she needs to do work or just have some time to herself, she said.
Her mother supported her from the very beginning, and even her baby helps out by being well-behaved, she said.
Unfortunately, the child’s father isn’t around much anymore, said Chrissie. “It kills me when he asks for his father and he’s not there,” she said.
Many of Chrissie’s old friends aren’t around much either.
Before she was pregnant, she said, she had lots of friends. But then, she said, “I realized who my real friends are.” Only one of them stuck by her side, she said.
So life isn’t easy for Chrissie, and now her family’s only source of income, her mother’s job, has vanished.
Chrissie said that she doesn’t have a job of her own because her mother told her to focus on getting a good education, so she could become what she wanted to be.
But if their financial situation became so bad that working was her only option, Chrissie said she would “whether it killed me or not.”
Right now, though, Chrissie and her family are getting by, and she said there aren’t many things she really needs for herself or her son.
The baby needs a new snowsuit, she said, and he’s a size three. He could also use some T-shirts, size large, and socks; he wears size seven shoes, she said.
And of course, “You can always use diapers,” she said.
As for Chrissie herself, the only thing she said she really needs badly is a new coat, size large. She also said she’d like certificates to K Mart or Wal-Mart, stores where she can buy small things she needs.
But there are also some things that Chrissie would like, even if they aren’t absolute necessities.
She said her son loves toy trucks and cars, as well as Barney. When it comes to watching Barney, she said, “He sits there until the show is over.”
Chrissie would like a boom box, she said. “I love music,” she said, and she listens to pretty much everything but country and rock ‘n roll. She also said that she’d wanted a necklace that said her name on it since she was 12 years old. But since her actual name isn’t in this article, she said she would like one that said “Mom” too.
Chrissie’s life may not be easy, but hopefully, with help from readers, her holiday will be a happy one.
Donations for Chrissie and other struggling teens can be dropped off at The Bristol Press, 99 Main St., during normal business hours. Checks may be sent to The Tattoo’s Christmas Presence/ c/o Steve Collins and Jackie Majerus, P.O. Box 483, Bristol, CT 06011-0483.
Katie Jordan is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.
Please note: The phone numbers and addresses in this story are outdated.