After a few really normal letters asking for bikes and a playstation, I read one that seemed really simple yet cute.
I felt so bad when I looked at how many letters there were there and realized it would be unlikely that this girl was chosen out of everyone.
Then I saw the sign that explained the real deal for the letters. It said the public are encouraged to select a letter and play Santa, later dropping off or mailing the gifts to the address on the envelope.
I was sold.
Our letter had a phone number of a neighbor on front because they didn't have a telephone, and the neighbor's niece confirmed the address and the need for our help. The kids were told they wouldnt be able to have Christmas this year, not even a dinner, because of money, and the mom washes clothes to make a living.
(click to enlarge)We left the post office with the letter and went straight to a department type store and got an amazingly cute little boyshorts bikini for the 8 year old (at one point I said "but she's 8, dont you think the mom would prefer we get a one piece?" and about 4 chilean mothers sifting through the bins next to me looked up with grins, looked at the swimsuit and said "get it".)
Then we went to a large outdoor market set up for Christmas. We found a cute and quality small backpack (more for going out than school, seeing as summer vacation just started) for the letter writer, picked only after I pleaded not to buy Pooh merchandise for a middleschooler- I cannot get over the cultural hurdle of accepting Disney apparel being cool for all ages.
For the boy, picking was easy and after a price and quality survey we returned to a store we had passed for a shiny blue and white soccer ball that should last.
On the way back, we found a little drawstring Hello Kitty bag and hid the swimsuit in that, and got some hair barrettes and a mini handbag to put in the writer's backpack.
We wrapped the gifts, invited another friend, and bought meat, veggies and drinks for their Christmas dinner, and a little extra. Then we got on a bus that took us outside of the port area of Valparaiso and then started heading up.
Some people on the bus and the driver let us know when we finally got to the neighborhood. There was no more up to go. I saw the most incredible view of not only Valparaiso but all of the mountains layered in the distance behind it. To the other side was a cloudy coast I'd never seen before. We looked down on hills of Valparaiso and it was hard to imagine how tall they look from the plan.
We called the neighbor again to help us find our way, and started walking through the street. Everybody had houses mostly built from scratch and siding materials or wood, and there was the most random mix of dogs.... puppies to spaniel looking things to muts to one that passed a Saint Bernard in size were all wandering or fenced in. We gave the neighbor a small jar of maple syrup for her help (did I mention all the lost phone calls in between leaving and arriving?) and knocked on the family's door. A younger mother opened the door with a smile and called down the kids. The house was made of cement but very simple. We noticed a small tree in the corner of the room too and it was obvious that the family got along and the mom was caring. We explained that we were representing Santa in delivering the gifts and handed one to each and the food for the mom. They looked really excited and thankful and kept us there to chat. As we were leaving, Angel and his friends put on a show of acrobatics for them outside.
The mom said the kids would have to wait until Christmas to open the gifts, but the boy looked extremely content with his (note the ball's lack of disguise in the photo), and the girls would have to wait but we saw that one of the neighbors had a large above ground plastic pool and knew the little one would be set for the summer. And the letter writer, the middle child 11 year old girl who wrote a letter to Santa just asking for what everybody else needed and just a little something, whatever that may be, for herself... well she already looked pretty happy.
And finally, I feel the Christmas spirit. I didn't think that was going to come around this year at all.