Mami worked at the Day Care Center on South 4 and Keap Street. It was a small and skinny blue and white building near the corner. At the corner was a lot with a playground for the little little kids in the center. Mami had her own office on the second floor. She was like a doctor — she took care of the little little kids in the school if they got sick. We used to visit her office and take a nap on the doctor bed that had paper on it. Or Mami would check how much we weighed or how tall we were.
One time they had an office party, and I had just discovered that you could go into the toilet, then lock it, then crawl out under the door. Then the next person wouldn’t be able to get in! I told Raphael about it, and he agreed that it was a great idea! So we went to the toilets on the first floor. We each took a stall, locked it, then crawled out. Then we ran to the bathroom on the second floor, went into the toilets and locked them. Then we checked back downstairs. A man was leaving and he said the toilet had gotten locked somehow, so he had to crawl under to fix it. We waited for him to leave and then locked it again.
We did this five times before someone told Mami that we were doing it. But she wasn’t mad at us. She thought it was funny. But she said we had to stop.
Every day Papi would finish the numbers, then take us to pick Mami up at the Day Care Center. One day we went and Mami had all her stuff from the office. She was very sad and very quiet.
Later, I found out Mami got a lay off. Eyewitness News talked about people getting a lay off, so I kind of knew what it was.
Now every day Mami stayed home. She was very quiet, so we kids stayed away from the kitchen so she could be quiet. My sister Evie whispered to me that now we had to go on welfare.
I had just started going to the store at the corner for milk and eggs. One time Mami told me to go to the store to get milk. She put the fake welfare money in my hand. It looked like Monopoly money. I didn’t want to go.
I stood at the door with the money in my hand. I didn’t move. Mami asked me why I didn’t want to go. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want her to know I was embarrassed. Raphael said, “Gimme. I’ll go,” and he took the money and went to get the milk.