Diego Enrique and his wife Maria Alicia were tired virtually every night when they got home. They worked hard. Maria Alicia would pick up their little girls from daycare and the three of them would ride the bus to the little apartment.
Diego found he could save several dollars a week by walking to his jobs. Despite being tired from his regular job, his part time work at a little mom and pop market, over in a tough section of town, was a financial necessity. Maria Alicia always worried about the dangerous neighborhood where her Diego worked at his 2nd job, but the money allowed them to afford a much safer neighborhood than they’d had when they first moved to America.
His main job was in an assembly plant for cheap furniture and he worked with several men who relied on Diego to translate English instructions into Spanish. The 2nd job was in a bad neighborhood and Diego had been robbed and beaten once as he walked home.
Maria Alicia anxiously awaited Christmas because Diego’s final night at the 2nd job was the night before Christmas. He was starting a new position with his main employer. The promotion included a good and much needed pay raise. There would also be the opportunity for overtime work so he could give up the part-time job.
Despite trying to obey the rules in their new country, what little savings they had brought with them had been used up for an immigration lawyer. It was a records snafu but it was still costly to straighten out. Also, the two illnesses their little girls had experienced not only took their meager savings, they were still making payments. The doctor had kindly discounted his charges but the hospital expected full payment.
Anarosa and Daniela were both under 5. They didn’t understand a lot of things that went on but like the few little friends they had, they were mesmerized by Christmas excitement.
By scrimping and saving, the parents were able to put the girls in an excellent day care center and pre-school. Mrs. Jean Watkins owned a group of these very popular centers. As Christmas approached, she and her office staff filled in for workers who were allowed time off for shopping. She spoke fluent Spanish and enjoyed talking in both languages with the Enrique girls. She helped them and the others write letters to Santa. She’d often do this and then secretly share the letters with parents before the letters would be “sent off to the North Pole.”
Anarosa and Daniela were wide eyed as they heard more stories about Santa. Their letter to him explained that they still had the very special dolls he’d brought them last time and didn’t need anything new. They asked Santa if he could bring warm gloves and hats for their parents because they both had to stand out in the cold waiting for busses or walking to work. They told Santa they really liked their new country but it was very cold compared to Mexico. Anarosa added that their Daddy had a hat but it was lost the time he was hurt and robbed.
“They took his gloves too, Santa.”
Mrs. Watkins had a tear trickle from her eye as she wrote what the girls explained. She didn’t share this letter and she smiled at the thought of not wanting to risk it getting lost on the way to the North Pole. She knew the Enriques were struggling financially. She went out and bought 4 hats and 4 pairs of gloves. She made sure 2 of each were adult sizes. She hatched a plot to deliver the gifts on the doorstep, ring the doorbell and run.
Maria Alicia opened the door and found the present addressed to all of them. She suspected Mrs. Watkins had done it. They really didn’t know anyone else very well and the kids talked glowingly of her.
Maria Alicia couldn’t wait for Diego to get home on Christmas Eve to tell him of the package. She had hidden the package from the girls along with the sweatshirts they had bought as presents for them. That afternoon she had purchased a little Christmas tree from the store near their bus stop. She told the girls they would make decorations for the tree.
“This is the best Christmas there could ever be,” shouted Anarosa.
Maria was mildly concerned when Diego didn’t arrive at his regular time. Her apprehension grew when he became over an hour late. Suddenly there was a knock and she hurriedly went to the door. She didn’t even check the little peephole as she undid the security chain. Her heart pounded as she opened the door and found Oliveira, one of Diego’s co-workers.
“Maria, it was a sweep. ICE raided the plant and took everyone.”
“But Diego is legal, we have cards and he has ID.”
“They took everyone’s wallets and purses and everything and threw them in a bag…and Maria, Diego and some of the men tried to explain and they used those Taser guns on them. They dragged everyone off an’ no one knows where they took them.”
From "But I Was Just Passing Through"
From "But I Was Just Passing Through"