Posted by: Shanie Matthews | July 6, 2010

The Joy of a Doll and a Coat

The wind hit me like a freight train. People had warned about the ferocious Patagonian winds. They weren’t kidding.

I was on nothing more than a trip to the grocery store but the weather made it seem more like a trek. A gust blew up dirt and dry leaves, throwing it into my face, offering me a natural facial scrubbing. I spit out the remnants.

“Thank goodness for down jackets.” I yelled over the wind, trying to make silly conversation and light of the wintry weather. Jamie’s head was down, his shoulders pushing through the strength of the wind. There was no way my husband heard me.

We finally made it to the front of the grocery store. Grasping the cold metal handle, I pulled hard against the blustery wind, trying  to open the door. It blew the cold metal door back into me, making it feel as if I was pushing through a steel trap trying to hold me in.

And then I saw them.

Two little girls — maybe 6 and 9 in age — crouched in the lee-side of the door, huddled together trying to keep warm. Their tiny hands were stretched out. Little voices begged for some moneda.

I flashed them a smile. My heart dropped seeing their runny noses and bright red cheeks, colored by the freezing temperatures. The wind smacked the door against me and knocked me into the grocery store.

Try as I might, the look on the two girls faces would not leave my mind. Lettuce. Tomatoes. Cheese. How is any of this important? How can those two girls not be getting hypothermia out there?

I stopped Jamie in his tracks and said that we needed to go to the car. Without anymore explanations he knew what I meant.

We had two boxes of items in our car that just might bring a smile to the girl’s faces.

You see, before leaving the States to live in Argentina, there were two things that we accumulated from loved ones that we had brought with us to our new home.

The first came from my beloved Grandma who had fallen ill from a stroke. An avid collector of dolls, she had acquired or made over 500 that decorated every inch of her house. She and I had decided before Jamie and I left that I would give her much-loved dolls to children in need. The second came from many years skiing in the mountains…extra winter gear.

We went back outside. The girls were still there, huddled next to the entrance taking advantage of  the escaping gasps of heat leaking through the entrance doors. Leaning down to their level, I explained to them that I didn’t have any moneda, but I did have something else that I wanted to give them. They both looked at me with both surprise and distrust in their eyes. I am sure that wonderment at this 30-something gringa was crossing their minds.

I motioned for them to stay where they were and that I would be right back. Jamie and I ran to the truck and grabbed a few suitable items, including a brand-new knee-length down jacket with a fur-rimmed hood that had been given to me by my little sister, Melea, and a precious blue-eyed, black-haired doll dressed in a frilly, white-laced dress complete with stockings, gloves and opalescent shoes.

We returned to the girls and offered our gifts. At first the look was questioning. Dismay passed quickly over the face of the older sister. She realized first that these presents of fun and warmth were for them. Her face suddenly lit up with a beaming smile that immediately brought tears to my eyes. She slipped the hip down jacket on. It fit her perfectly.

The little one didn’t care so much for the coat that came with her new baby doll. Her interest was enchanted by her new toy. She cradled the child to her chest, immediately becoming the little mommy to this doll that had an eerie resemblance to her own dark hair and mesmerizing eyes.

The moment plastered itself to my memory. The look of pure happiness was emanating from these two dear children.

How I wish I could give them more…

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