Skip to content

GET BREAKING NEWS IN YOUR BROWSER. CLICK HERE TO TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS.

X

Pinkerton Good-4-All is shown outside Cheryl Matsukis’s house on Leominster Road, with children (from left) Emily, 6; Aaliyah, 8; Aydyn, 10; and Alanna, 10.
Pinkerton Good-4-All is shown outside Cheryl Matsukis’s house on Leominster Road, with children (from left) Emily, 6; Aaliyah, 8; Aydyn, 10; and Alanna, 10.
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

SHIRLEY – When Cheryl Matsukis launched a “Go Fund Me” Facebook page in December, 2021, she was facing a mortgage payment she couldn’t meet and a due date at the end of the month and hoped there would be some people out there who wanted to help.

She needs an estimated $20,000 to allow her to stay in her house while raising four young children.

Although Matsukis didn’t know for sure that foreclosure was imminent, she believed it was possible.

“I haven’t received a warning notice…they’ve been polite so far,” she said of the collection agency in charge of the mortgage. “I’m not in trouble yet,” she added.

She’s hoping the collection agency will grant an extension, but she hasn’t asked for one yet. But with four kids at home during Christmas vacation, it was impossible to have a detailed financial conversation over the phone, she said, adding that she looking into the matter once the kids go back to school.

“I don’t want charity…I just need more time,” Matsukis said.

Attempts to reach the collection agency for a comment were unsuccessful.

As of the first week in January, the GoFundMe campaign had raised only a couple hundred dollars.

“It helps some…but not enough,” Matsukis said, adding that she didn’t have high hopes for it to begin with. But with the loan deadline looming, she had to try, she said.

After raising two daughters, Matsukis is now a grandmother and a single foster mom, legal guardian to three of the four grandchildren – ages six to 10 — who live with her in the small blue house on Leominster Road, where one of her daughters also lives with her child.

With a household consisting of several people, if the house were lost, they’d all be displaced. She tries to keep up her spirits, Matsukis said, but it can feel overwhelming.

Simple pleasures help. Silly ones, too. Her house is notable for the big, bright pink gorilla that from time to time shows up out front, in various places and poses.

“He was a find,” Matsukis says of the over-sized, inflatable pink stuffy. One of her grandchildren, who doesn’t live there, gave it to a sibling who does, she said. It was sort of a joke gift. This was pre-pandemic, she said.

“We put him in a rocking chair on the porch.” she said of the quirky outdoor ornament.

“And in 2019, he ended up in our nativity scene,” she added.

Then, in 2020, with schools closed and everybody’s spirits in need of a boost, the gorilla added a touch of cheer, she said, perched in a tree with a sign that read: “We miss you LAW,” referencing the nearby Lura A. White Elementary School the children attend.

“I had started doing silly things to cheer up the kids” during the long shut-down, she said.

The pink gorilla “went away for a year,” she said. It was loaned out to a landscaping firm, Lynwood Tree Services. “They saw him, driving by, and wanted him as a mascot,” she said. Now, he’s back. “He came home to help the family,” she said.

The gorilla’s name is Pinkerton Good-4-all. Named in part for the famous detective agency, his surname a name to the English primatologist Jane Goodall, Matsukis said.

People on social media were wondering if the gorilla had a name. He didn’t. So they put out an empty water bottle for suggestions and had a drawing. “We got 150…they were all so good!” she said.

Pinkerton is a family fixture and is apparently home now for good.

Matsukis and her family moved in on Christmas day, 2006.

“It was our family Christmas present,” she said.

Keeping up the old house, which dates to the turn of the century, was a challenge from the first, but she managed, with a steady job and a $1,000 mortgage she had no trouble paying each month. She can still pay it, she said, even without the paycheck she once counted on.

She has no other debts. No credit cards or student loans. “I don’t want to owe anyone,” she said.

Unfortunately, there’s that second mortgage, taken out when rates were low. And it’s now due in full.

Matsukis said she can’t see a way to solve that problem right now.

Matsukis said she’s always been a saver with a “feast or famine” outlook, setting aside rainy day funds when times were good to cover calamities or lean times. The strategy worked. Until it didn’t.

She had to tap savings for major home repairs such as replacing the furnace, which quit on Thanksgiving day, a year after moving in. Over the years, other costly upgrades included electrical work, a water heater and a new second-floor bathroom.

Matsukis described a perfect storm of circumstances that peaked during the COVID-19 crisis.

Things began to unravel when her former boss, now deceased, became ill with cancer. His construction firm employed her to clean and prep houses for sale. The job paid well, with benefits and flexible hours, Matsukis said. But as his illness progressed, he had to close the business. She became his full-time caregiver. He died in 2019.

With young children to care for and their school needs as well as at home to tend to, it was tough to find a job that fit her 24/7 schedule, Matsukis said, adding that it was even more difficult to envision taking on an outside job once the pandemic hit and schools shut down.

Asked if she’d considered a work-from-home job, Matsukis said her computer skills are outdated now and although she’s held many different jobs over the years and was always willing and ready to work, she was unable to strike a balance, given her parenting responsibilities.

Matsukis can’t turn to extended family for financial help. Her only sibling is a younger sister who lives in California, a disabled military veteran injured while serving in Afghanistan.

“If we lost the house, I’d have to go live with her, but as their guardian, I couldn’t take the kids,” she said, citing legal issues.

During a conversation laced with self-effacing humor, Matsukis mused about her role as a full-time parent, the second time around. Sometimes, as her financial situation worsened, she felt “isolated,” she said, and social media was a way to reach out.

But the children are her saving grace. “They keep me young,” she said.

That said, she regrets the things she’d like them to have that she can’t afford right now. Music lessons for the boy with “an ear for music.” Voice lessons for an 8-year old girl who “loves to sing.” The youngest boy is as “very physical” but hasn’t targeted a sport or activity yet, she said.

She looks forward to finding a job, she said and getting back on her feet, financially, with a chance to pay for some of those extra-curricular perks.

In the meantime has been writing a children’s book. She won’t talk about content — it is still a work in progress. But she shared the first lines: “On a little hill on a busy street, sits a little blue house where love grows.”

No word on whether one of the characters is a 3-year-old gorilla named Pinkerton.

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.