Sometime after playing Musical Chairs, handing out stockings, helping them unwrap their presents tied with ribbon that's impossible to break, and telling them good-bye, I suddenly felt like a bad person. A bad person for all the times I complained about what I didn't have or what I wanted but didn't need. And they were so grateful for the 3 toys they were opening. My heart doesn't know how to handle that sort of thing.
My "Secret Santa" kid was Keyshawn, and I watched him with his brothers, one of whose name is Ja'Darrius, and his little sister, Jessica. All of them were sick with something. All of their noses were running. And All of the Beta Club members were making sure we had tissue.
Keyshawn got his football, his football helmet, his football jersey, and a firetruck. A firetruck. Where did that come from?
Anyway, I gave him the driving firetruck, and he loved it. Of course, he thought it was from Santa (who was there -- if you count a social studies teacher in a costume as Santa). He played with the toy a little, then Jessica waddled over and took his place. I was leaning on my arm as I sat in the floor with them, playing and laughing, when some random kid walked up to me while watching Jessica play with the firetruck, and sat in my lap. We sat for a while and played with the cool toy (I admit -- I was fascinated), and I was asking him what he wanted for Christmas and all those tradition questions I hate having to answer. I read his nametag. Dy'Quan. He was leaning against me as I held him, and when he breathed, I could feel the vibrations from his body, like he had phlegm or something. He must have been sick, too.
His mum walked over.
"Dy'Quan, let's go." He shook his head.
"I mean it, we gotta go!" He wasn't moving. I got nervous.
I tried to encourage him to go with her. He started crying.
"Boy, if you don't come on..." She grabbed him by one arm and pulled him up, and I wanted to hit her. He just went limp as he sobbed and she started pulling him away from me.
"I'll help you," I offered as I absent-mindedly walked after her.
"I have to put on his coat!" she shouted, probably annoyed.
I stopped walking. "That's fine, I'll help." And walked after her again.
I held my arms out to him and he reached up to me, and for a brief second I felt like someone's savior. He was crying, and I wanted so badly to adopt him. I wanted to adopt all of them.
I took him over to see Santa, and that seemed to help. Then I put him down to put on his jacket, and his mum walked up, grabbed him by the hand, and took him away before I even got to say good-bye. I just wanted to tell him Merry Christmas.
I didn't move. I just stood there, looking at the door as if he might, by some miracle, break free of his mother and run back to me. But really I knew that wouldn't happen.
A friend of mine was holding Ja'Darrius' hand in an effort to lead him to the door while his mother tried to round up her other kids. He was wailing, but not really resisting her lead. I couldn't take it.
I picked him up, too. Earlier he had sat out all the games we played and just walked around. He's sick, and I could tell by the look on his face, even though I've never seen him before today to compare. Now here he was, still sobbing but not as loudly, as I quited him gently. His little hiccups really got to me.
I took him to see Santa, but he wouldn't let Santa hold him. Santa was disappointed.
He stopped crying, but he didn't want me to put him down. He's old enough to talk, but he wouldn't say a word to me, even though I kept asking him open-ended questions. I told him I would walk him out to his car if he wanted me to, and he just nodded.
So we put on his coat and headed outside. Everything outside looked an awkward orange color, and I liked it. Someone pointed out half a rainbow, and he didn't really get excited. I put him in his car. I waved. He stared. He didn't wave. My heart isn't immune to these emotions. What the hell am I feeling?
I started to walk away. I looked back. He waved. I smiled. I waved. He stared.
Kirsten got under my umbrella with me, and we started our walk to my car in the parking lot.
"They're so cute!" she started. I nodded in response.
"I wish --"
"O my God, Maegs! Look at that fucking rainbow, would you!"
I looked up slowly, not really caring. Then I saw it in all its beauty -- two complete rainbows.
I immediately turned back to Ja'Darrius' car, excited to tell him the rainbow was whole and there were two of them, hoping to see him smile just once before I never saw him again. But his car was pulling away.
Of course. When you find something beautiful you want to share with someone else, they're not there for you to share it with them. Of course.
His mom was putting on her Burger King work hat.
"We have to make a wish!" Kirsten squealed.
I turned. "Okay, sure."
I grabbed her hand and closed my eyes, ready to wish.
"No you can't do that!"
I opened my eyes. "What?"
"You have to put the umbrella down so you don't block the wishness!"
I quickly debated in my head as the rain splashed onto my toes. And I just didn't care.
My umbrella fell to the ground, rolling a couple feet but not really going anywhere because it only rolled in circles. She took my hand again.
"Wish for me, too, Kiwi," I said. A raindrop hit me dead on the nose as we stood there, eyes closed. Her grip on my hand tightened.
We picked up the umbrella to head home, but we didn't walk under it.
I'll probably get sick from all of the germs I caught today. It just seems so shit to worry about, though, because it would be so incredibly worth it.
I'm not sure it's valid to wish on rainbows, but I wish on everything else, so why not?
Today I decided to be a better person. I will be more thoughtful. I won't forget birthdays. I won't call after ten o'clock on a weeknight. I will plan ahead. I will work harder. I won't fail my PreCal exam.
I think the oddest part of the day is that while I was with these children, I realized: They cling to me the way I cling to you. Only this hurts me worse. Because not only am I hurting inside for myself, but I'm hurting inside for them, too, because my wish on the rainbow was that they wouldn't hurt anymore.
How can one little kid change my outlook on life?
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