My story is a tribute to you, teachers, who despite politicians in plaster palaces playing with purse strings, go to the front lines every day with your hearts – bottomless resources with no strings attached:
I pulled up, trying to get the car door over a spot on the road without a puddle. Rain had just begun to fall and I turned up the heater when she climbed into the passenger seat. Pulling the seat belt over her pregnant belly, we smiled at each other and I headed towards the main road. Not knowing enough Spanish to say more than hello and ask her how she was, we sat in silence for the next 30 minutes as I drove to town.
Navigating congested roads full of holiday shoppers, I finally pulled into the parking lot, grateful to see official greeters and signs pointing the way. “Have you been here before?” one of the men asked. “Just enter through that door, you’ll find a table to sign in. There will be someone to help you.”
I linked my arm through Senaida’s, assuring her with a glance that I knew where we needed to go. After finding her name on the clipboard and getting a ticket with a number for entry and a ‘3’ for the number of children currently in her family, we helped ourselves to some sweet bread and juice and sat.
A young woman with a garish tattoo between her breasts, bouncing a baby on her hip sat down across from us and I opened a conversation. Senaida sat quietly eating, watching other families enter. She chuckled at a father swinging a baby carrier from his arm with a large blanket dragging on the floor, the baby staring at us with big brown eyes.
We waited for about an hour. At last they called numbers that included Senaida’s and we made our way towards the gym door. “You may choose 2 toys and 3 stocking-stuffers for each child. There are free books and each family can have one article of clothing.” I wondered what kinds of toys would be available for Senaida to choose.
There were five rows of tables, two for boys, two for girls and one full of board games. All of Senaida’s children are boys – even the one on the way, so I didn’t look over the girl table at all. There were plenty of choices for her boys, all brand new, all toys that had been discounted 80-90%. Nothing was over $5.
Senaida cooed and exclaimed, carefully examining pictures on the boxes and telling me which son she was making a choice for. I held the large bag as she loaded them in. Choosing the stocking stuffers was more difficult. There were crayons and play dough, card games, bubbles and candy canes. Everything was totaled and cash exchanged and high school girls wrapped and labeled each gift.
Three hours later, we were back at the apartment, carrying the beribboned treasures through the door to hugs from three boys.
My aide and I always choose one of our student’s families to sponsor at Christmas. Senaida’s boys were our choice this year – lucky me, I got to spend my Saturday doing it!
Thank You Two Writing Teachers