2012 Contest HM – Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe – “The Shrinking Middle Class” Jessica Wood and her young family used to consider themselves middle class. But they suddenly find themselves living in a small Colonial-style house with her parents in North Andover, MA while she and her husband attempt to shovel themselves out of debt and reinvent their careers. Summer was a tense time with her two children, Maisie and Emmett, out of school and constantly around in her retired parents’ space. She ushered them outside as often as she could. Ann and Barry Low (far right), their daughter, Jessica Wood (center), son-in-law, Randy Wood (far left) and their grandchildren, Maisie and Emmett Wood, sit down together for their nightly evening meal on Thursday evening, October 11, 2012. They all live in the same household since the Woods moved back in to save money and send Randy back to school. Jessica contemplates a check she just wrote from one bank account to deposit to another so she could qualify for a used car loan. She was denied the load based on poor credit, and her car, which she needs to commute to her job as a teacher, no longer functions. Now that the house of two became a house of 6, there’s always a list of budget-minded weekday dinners and who is assigned to prepare them on the kitchen wall. Jessica peers into the window of a used 2003 Toyota Highlander that she hoped to purchase. She was denied the loan and ended up needing to borrow more money from her parents, with whom she and her family were already living. Jessica did her best to make back-to-school shopping fun even though she couldn’t buy her children the shoes they wanted. They hit the department stores at 8 am to take advantage of an early-bird special. North Andover, MA – 8/02/2012 – Jessica and Randy Wood try to keep the children as busy as possible with out-of-the-house activities as to lessen the burden on Jessica’s parents, Anne and Barry Low. Jessica and Randy wait anxiously while a bank officer evaluated their suitability for a used car loan. They were denied. Randy Wood checks his email on his phone telling him that he was passed over for the job for which he had just interviewed. Jessica Wood prepared her seventh-grade classroom at the Alexander B. Bruce School in Lawrence, MA for the influx of students that would mark the start of the school year. She said it is looking less certain that her husband, Randy Wood, will be able to secure a part-time job in his field as he pursues a graduate teaching degree.