Publisher’s Clearinghouse

When I was little, publisher’s clearinghouse was BIG. And I was obsessed with winning it. Not just that sweepstakes, but any sweepstakes, and at the time there were a lot of copiers. My parents threw the letters away, slamming them as “junk mail.” To me, they were slivers of hope of a new life I rescued from the trash.

I didn’t realize how tiny these slivers were at the time, however. I filled out those entry forms diligently and turned them around as fast as possible, like they were homework. My parents wouldn’t let me watch TV – just 60 Minutes. One night, there was a segment on a guy who had WON A BUNCH OF SWEEPSTAKES. He had a system.

I remember watching the segment, but I didn’t get a good sense of what the system was. Maybe he was too discreet to say it on television. But I interpolated something. From then on, I’d scribble messages on my entries. In the white space in between the printed boxes for name, address, etc, I’d write to the publisher’s clearinghouse all about my desperate life and how badly I needed the money. I’d tell them how my parents screamed and hit and threw things at each other every night. How I had to defend my mom because l felt our lives were in danger, that I had to lock myself in the bathroom or run away to escape it. I said I thought I might be an abused child and I needed the money to go out and live on my own and support my little sister. I was eight. Do you have to be 18 to win one of these? At the time, that didn’t even cross my mind.

Did I ever win? No. Eventually I stopped trying. Now, I NEVER buy a lottery ticket. I never gamble. And I never enter sweepstakes. I realized a long time ago: hope is for suckers. At least the kind of hope that thinks that your life’s problems are gonna be solved by a packet of money.

Hope is a long game I work at every day. What I hope for most is being present. As I child I needed to delusions to get through. Now, as an adult it’s the opposite. I must have my eyes wide open: if you don’t get your issues they get you.

Still, Publisher’s Clearing House has a special place in my heart. At least for a while I basked in the the hope that the person ringing the doorbell could be Ed McMahon, offering me my new dream life.

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