Annunciation House. An unmarked red brick building in El Paso. Families wait here. They are in a holding pattern. They have fled poverty and violence in Mexico and Central America. They came with nothing, hoping for a better future for their children.
Gary and I follow our friends, Rosy and Sandra, and my brother, Jack, through a side door. I am told to put my camera away. We are greeted by a young woman with a clipboard. “Oh, so you’re the ones who sent all the clothes.” Weeks earlier, I had shipped clothes, close to 40 boxes of clothes. Clothes from students of Crystal Springs Uplands School, from my fellow yoga students at Change of the Peninsula, and from Ariela’s closet.
Ariela loved clothes. If she found a style she liked, she’d buy it in every color available. Fifteen polo shirts, eleven pairs of Abercrombie’s sweatpants, six Juicy Couture hoodies, seven pairs of Chuck Taylor All-Stars, and too many t-shirts needed new homes.
The five of us are ushered up a narrow flight of stairs. Then, into a room with two long folding tables covered with red plastic sheets. We put out icing and jimmies and sprinkles and mini candy bars, the kind you buy for trick-or-treat. Rosy has baked cupcakes. About a dozen or so children appear in the doorway. Most are about five to eight years old. They stop for a minute, unsure about the task in front of them. Each child carefully selects a naked cupcake and finds a place at the table. We hand-off the icing containers and point to the plastic knife propped in the center of the stiff goo. I walk to the back of the room and sit next to a boy, who glows with wide-eyed excitement. He wears cargo pants that hang on his thin frame. Maybe he’s six or seven. He starts with vanilla icing, then switches to chocolate. He combs the icing back and forth and around the cupcake. When he is satisfied, he sprinkles and shakes and pours. A few words from high school Spanish come back to me. “Que bonita,” “rojo” and “verde.”The boy places a mini Reese’s peanut butter on top. “Muy rico,” I tell him. The boy doesn’t speak English. We point and smile and nod. He does most of the nodding as he chomps on the candy stuffed in his cheeks.
The boy packs his pockets with mini Snickers, Reese’s, and Milky Ways. Then, he goes back to the front table for another cupcake. He decorates and eats the second cupcake, then decorates a third and offers it to me “for helping.” He builds a small tray of decorated cupcakes, and disappears with his bounty. Rosy tells me that he made the tray for his mother.
We clean up the candy wrappers and say, “Adios” and “Feliz Navidad.” We are about to leave when the boy in cargo pants steps in front of me. He opens his hand near my face. He wants to give me two of his candy bars.
“Por usted,” I point towards him, chest level. He shakes his head and waves his hand with the candy in my direction. “Por tu amigos,” I tell him.
“Tu es mi amiga,” he says.