In Tulare today, the heart of California’s Central Valley, the armpit of the state with something like 60 percent of the state’s welfare caseload, this was the smile on the face of my nephew-in-law’s daughter on the lap of the neighborhood Santa.
Where there is no barrio because the whole town is a barrio, there is no Santa either as most homes are broken and without adult males. My wife’s father started a tradition more than forty years ago now in which a family member dresses as Santa and goes to what started as five houses and now is twenty, each with several dozen kids who each get personal attention from Santa, sit on his lap and tell him their dreams, and receive a bag of candy (often the only thing they receive during the holidays due to moms whose run-out-of-money-at-the-end-of-the-month habit really screws their kids at Christmas). If their English isn’t great this Santa still understands.
My nephew-in-law’s daughter doesn’t speak: it’s not physical but psychological trauma due to random mundane horrors of this life that many of her peers share. Still, this night she was happy for a time. My wife teared up.
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