A love letter to the toddler in my arms

Dear Sergio Enrique,

On October 24, 2018 I held you in my arms at the Greyhound bus station in El Paso, Texas. Both of our buses had been delayed about three hours (not too bad!) and so we were looking for ways to pass the time. I had gotten up out of my seat to buy some coffee, stretch my legs and look at the departure and arrival screens from close up. As I slowly approached the row of chairs where you were playing, you ran to me and put your arms up to say “please pick me up!” I looked around nervously to see if anyone was looking, but they were all lost in conversation, so I swept you up. You immediately started giggling as you held a toy car in your left hand and a rubber road runner in the other. Your front teeth were growing in, I think – only halfway there – and you had all kinds of baby goo crusted to your mouth and cheeks. I can’t remember your clothes, but I remember asking you why you had blonde hair, as I just so rarely saw that from Guatemalans.

I asked you if your mom was the lady in the red shirt, and you told me something in toddler speak (I wasn’t even sure you could understand Spanish, since many of the kidlets had Indigenous languages instead), but I could tell by the way she laughed and looked at me and you every few minutes that she was your mom. I hoped she recognized me from the motel like you did, and that she didn’t just trust you holding me because I was some nice-looking white girl, although I think the real truth is that those things together brought you to me and left her looking the other way.

I bounced you on my hip as you giggled and coughed in my face. You kept burping in that baby burp kind of way where I was certain any second you were going to throw up all over me, and considering I hadn’t even left El Paso yet, I was nervous to have your belly contents on my sweater. But, I had resolved in my head that I would wash it off in the bathroom. You kept burping and I would say “salud!” in a really high-pitched voice and you would laugh.

At one point I put you down and squatted next to you because my arms were tired. You leaned yourself between my legs and sort of sat on my left thigh, and you snuggled your head on my chest and neck in the most soft and tender way. I’m not sure what I did to deserve that from you, but it made all of my worries melt away. One of the dads sitting among the many migrant families looked at me and said, “Is he yours?” – that’s how strangely comfortable you were in my arms.

Sergio, I want you to know that I want this for all of the persons I’ve met and helped provide hospitality to during this hopeless time for many of your people. I hope that you learn so much during your time in the United States. I hope your family can find legal representation and that you can build an asylum case that holds up in whatever court you and your mom will be in. I hope that there are good and friendly people who meet you, who embrace you, who help you access the resources you need to grow and thrive. I hope your mom stays strong and that you are met with kindness and encouragement in all of your days. I hope your family in Guatemala stays safe.

I hope that very soon, the bright thinkers of your country and neighboring countries will come up with solutions to the devastating poverty and political violence that is causing a mass exodus of your people. And I hope and pray that things can change in all of Central America and Mexico so that littler toddlers like you can go to school and have full bellies and some toys and good healthcare and not be at risk to be recruited into gangs or have to leave home before you finish high school to work in a foreign land.

Sergio Enrique, thank you for sharing your love with me on that day, as it brought me back to life. I hope you know te quiero mucho – and I hope to see you again.

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