DOWNEY - In this Downey family's ethos, there's no room for imagined fears or Utopian dreams. Practicality will do.When wife Dilma A.'s $5 Set for Life scratcher won the top prize of $2 million ($100,000 per year over 20 years-actually $75,000 after taxes) on Friday the 13th, the immediate reaction was, understandably, utter shock and disbelief. Afterwards, after the initial excitement and exhilaration over the good fortune that befell them had died down a bit, there was no immediate talk of luxuries or extravagances. The talk, more animated this time, and more confident, was of finally being able to make that down payment on a house of their own, their first, for which they've been saving up for some time now. In all likelihood, it'll be a modest one. The husband (Hugo A,) didn't rhapsodize about getting a Jag or a Beemer. Instead they talked about being more able to provide for a really good education for their children (they have two girls, an 11-year old, and a four-year old), and secure their futures. Actually, Hugo has another daughter, Alexes, age 12, by a prior relationship; they regard her as part of their family. After a few years, when they'll have had the chance to really organize their finances and put resources and priorities in proper order, and if their savings and investments were to prosper, they could then be in a better position to own that dream home, Dilma said. And perhaps do some real traveling: 11-year old Nathalie said she would like to go to Paris, so does the 4-year old charmer, Dahlia. And do other things, means and circumstances permitting. It helps that Dilma and Hugo are both gainfully employed. Hugo has been with the L.A. County Fire Department for 10 years. And they're not about to give up their present jobs, either ("We love our jobs"). They said the money won would serve as a cushion. They also said they won't stop buying lottery tickets. Their practice has been to buy lottery tickets, some $10 to $20 worth on average, every week, and on their paydays without fail. Dilma's favorite game is the $5 Set for Life game, because she said it usually returned her small winnings of $4 or $5 or $10 or even $20. The game also offered a second chance opportunity online to win a prize. Hugo usually purchases it for her at Stewart Liquor at 111122 Paramount Blvd., or wherever and whenever the chance presents itself. This has been going on for about nine or 10 months. Friday the 13th began as usual for the Downey couple who are in their mid-30s - dropping off Nathalie at her school in the early morning and Dahlia at her grandma's place. While on his lunch break, Hugo bought a $10 scratcher at a 7-Eleven store; it didn't win anything. After work, he picked up the kids and waited for his wife to come home. Then on to WalMart they went to buy some groceries, after which they visited Dilma's friend in Whittier, and Hugo's friend in La Mirada. Finally, on their way home, at around 10 p.m., they stopped at Stewart Liquor. Hugo bought two beers and was about to go out the door when, he said, "Something told me to buy a $5 Set for Life scratcher" for Dilma. They were back in the confines of their rented home at around 10:15-10:30. They were all set to kick back for the long weekend. Dilma had put the scratcher in her purse. Upon reaching the house, they just relaxed, watched TV, hung out, with Dilma ending up reading a magazine on the bed, and the kids drifting off to their bedrooms to sleep. Thrice between 11 p.m. and midnight Hugo asked Dilma if she had scratched the ticket yet. Not really paying attention, twice she answered, "I'll scratch it later." The third time Hugo asked Dilma if she had scratched the ticket yet, it was around midnight and he was in the bathroom. Suddenly she flung the bathroom door wide open and, excitement riding her voice and written in her wide-awake eyes, she shrieked, "We won! We won!" Hugo was dumbfounded for a moment, seeing only a half-scratched ticket and showing only the top portion of the letters "LIFE." After all, he didn't play the game, and he really didn't make heads and tails of it. Then when she furiously, but carefully, scratched the ticket further, he was able to read "$100K/YR for 20 years." By golly, he said, "We really did win something big." The first people to learn of the good news was Dilma's parents whom she had immediately phoned. They tried to wake Nathalie up, but by this time nothing in the world could have awaken her. Hugo and Dilma then tried to go to sleep but couldn't. It was 4 a.m. when they finally drifted off to dreamland. To secure the ticket, Hugo put it in an envelope, wrapped the envelope in plastic, and put it inside his vest-which he never took off unless he had to. At 10:30 that Saturday morning, they went to Stewart Liquor to verify if they had officially won. Sure enough, after some anxious moments due no less to the dour demeanor of the store owner, they were issued their claim ticket. "When he issued it," Hugo recalled, "and finally said to us, 'You've won $2 million', my feelings at least were simply indescribable." Hugo would keep that claim ticket securely in his vest all of Saturday night, all of Sunday, all of Monday, until Tuesday morning when the paperwork and the interviews with California Lottery officials in Santa Fe Springs took place. The office was closed Monday because it was the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Hugo and Dilma can now only wait (happily, for sure) for that first check of $75,000 to arrive from the California Lottery, and to wonder, in their heart of hearts, why this kind of blessing has alighted on their shoulders, and not on another family. Meanwhile, they said: "We're deeply grateful we won."
********** Published: January 26, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 41