After the first Gulf War, the economy went bad. A lot of our customers ended up getting laid off and had to move to other states. We also had contracts with big companies and hotels and a lot of these businesses had gone under. So after a couple of years fifty percent of our customers had moved away. It was hard-- we had payments to make.
That year was very difficult for our whole family. Christen had started high school and we had enrolled her in a school that was out of our district. We had read in the newspaper that many students from a particular high school graduated and went to an Ivy League or another top school. It was the best public school in San Diego County. Because it was so far away James would have to drive Christen to school before he came to the cleaners and pick her up after our store closed. She would spend an hour in the library before school started and three hours after school ended. We wanted to give our girls everything we never had but it was getting harder and harder to do so.
As our business got smaller I had more stress. We had so many payments to make: $2,400 in house payments, $2,500 in payments to the elder from our church whose business we had bought, and $3,000 in rent payments for our cleaners. It was too much. For almost a year, after all our payments were made we still had $5,000 a month. In the end, after five years of business, we couldn’t even make our payments. We were in debt. Even when our business was good we hadn't been extravagant with our money. We had bought a house, but had never owned a new car or bought anything with a designer label. Even our furniture was old. All the money we had saved had gone to make back payments.
In the end we decided not to sell the business. We just left it. We didn’t want to sell it to anybody because it was failing. A broker had a person who wanted to buy our business but we didn’t want anyone else to suffer like we did so we just closed our doors. We also helped Lola and Margarita find new jobs; we didn't want them to suffer either. We couldn’t meet the mortgages on our house so we had to file for bankruptcy. I cried so much then. Since I was born, that’s the time when I cried the most. My mah-uhm was broken. I cried every night, all night long. We had back payments on the mortgage and the property taxes. We couldn’t sell our house either because of the economy. So the bank repossessed our home.
After we went bankrupt we moved out of our house and back into an apartment. It was so little and cramped compared to our house. It was hard to live at first. Nobody in our house worked for about a year or two. We had property in Korea that we had inherited and sold so we used that money and also borrowed some money to live. I didn't work for many years. I had so much stress from the dry cleaners and the bankruptcy that I couldn't work. I had no heart to work. I just wanted to stay home. I was so sad then.
Even though I didn't want to work or leave the apartment I hated being in the apartment. I felt trapped. It was so cramped compared to our house. We had given away a lot of our material things that we didn't have room for like our barbeque, our daughters' bikes, and some of our furniture but we still had a lot of things. It was all crammed into a two -bedroom apartment. The tiny balcony in our apartment that replaced our backyard was overflowing with plants and flowers. There wasn't enough sunlight coming in. My plants were overcrowded so some of them started to die. In the end I had to give many of them away.