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Thursday, December 14, 2006


I got home a few minutes ago and there were three messages on my voice mail: two from Oscar and one from his big brother Fernando. "Could we come get our presents????" was the major thrust of all three--at least in the last one, Fernando's, he said, "I'm sorry we didn't come last night. We had to go somewhere."

I waited for them for an hour last night. Today I have a sore throat I didn't have yesterday, and I still have a house that needs someone to come through with a backhoe to clear the crap out of every room on the first floor. But it was kind of fun to hear the excitement in their voices through the messages, so I held off dinner and called them to come over. This time they were here right away.

While I was in Cuernavaca last weekend, I went shopping with my friend Kathy at the main artisan's market. She introduced me to a young man named Federico. Federico, who looks to be in his late teens or early 20s, used to live on the streets of Cuernavaca. He found his way to a local group that helps street youth develop their talents and make a legitimate living as artists. Federico carves and paints wood into various decorative pieces. I bought two sets of coasters, two crosses and two Christmas-tree ornaments, which were the gifts for the boys.

When the doorbell rang, I picked up the ornaments--one a fish, one a bird, both with many and varied colors--put one in each hand and put my hands behind my back after opening the door. "OK, guys, you have to pick who gets which hand," I told them. Fernando chose my left hand and won the bird; Oscar got the fish in my right hand. Federico had delicately printed his name in white paint in unobtrusive places on each object. I pointed that out, and Fernando and I showed Oscar where Federico had drilled a hole to put a string through his fish and hang it on the tree.

"Wow, that's cool!" said Oscar. "Thank you," they chorused, with big smiles. I'm glad to know some kids for whom this kind of present is a big deal. And iI'm glad to know Federico's Christmas will be a little nicer, too.

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