Thank You Christmas Strangers –
When I was younger, when Christmas was afoot, our family would often get donated gifts from a local church. Donated gifts from kind strangers who thought it nice enough to contribute to a toy drive for underprivileged kids. I was one of those underprivileged kids.
One day in 98’, I am not even sure it was Christmas, I was at my grandmother’s house. She came in the room with two wrapped gifts. She told me that when she gave the church information for what gender and what age she let them know that I was a girl, but I liked boy toys. Now, in this day and age, we are slowly shifting away from this idea of gendering toys, as we should be because it is limiting, and serves no purpose but to reinforce gender stereotypes. Yet, there was my grandmother, who always pushed dresses on me, slowly learning by the time I was 8 that I was not to be pressured with female gender identifying clothes. I was not to be pressured with the need to play with only female associated toys. My grandmother stood there with two wrapped gifts that were meant for a boy. But, by golly they were meant for me too!
I swiftly unwrapped one to see the words Star Wars across the top. It took me but a moment to realize it was an action figure. I was estatic. My brother had introduced me to Star Wars just that year. I saw all of them and instantly my sci-fi heart was fuller. I remember when I watched them how glued I was to the tv. I stared at the covers of the VHS cassettes way too often. So, when I saw the words I smiled. I unwrapped it as quick as I could to reveal an action figure of General Grand Moff Tarkin along with an Imperial Gunner, and an interrogation droid as an accessory. I opened the box to remove General Tarkin. When I had it in my hands, minus the box, I felt the plastic; smooth. The limbs could move, but they were a bit rigid. I inspected the interrogation droid, and all its detailed buttons. The Imperial Gunner’s gun was removable. I looked at the Imperial Gunner’s suit. What else is removable? I wondered. To be honest,General Tarkin was not my favorite. I think I was more into the droid and the Imperial Gunner at the time. I was excited, but my level of excitement had yet to reach max level intensity. I did check to see if Tarkin’s belt was removable and the boots as well. If recall, I forced the belt off later because I liked to take thinks apart to see how they work.
I almost forgot about the other present because I was so focused on inspecting and messing around with General Tarkin. My grandmother had to remind me. I grabbed the other one, and ripped it open so swiftly. My heart be still! Another Star Wars action figure. This one much more detailed. Bigger in appearance. Bolder. Darker. So dark…it was the dark side itself embodied into the individual whom they call Darth Vader. Wow! My excitement then could not be held. I tore that box open like I had claws. So savage! His red lightsaber was removable. I held it in my hand, but I was a giant in comparison to it.
His limbs more movable; more flexible than Tarkin’s. I had never had a toy as flexible in function till that moment. Not one of plastic. Not one of such detail. Not one of such price. It had a cloth cape. It had buttons. Buttons that made noises! It spoke! It made his breathing sound. I look back at the destroyed box in which it came. Two part removable helmet. The box said Vader had a two part removable helmet! Can a mouth drop lower? I removed the first layer of the helmet. I pushed the button for him to breath. Then, I pushed a second button. One that echoed, “Feel the power of the dark side…” I removed the second part of the helmet to show Darth Vader’s face. His true face, Anakin’s face, but I had yet to learn of that name. My grandmother smiled. I looked at her and said thank you. She told me to not thank her, but to thank the strangers that donated the items to the church.
One thing I always wanted to do is thank you strangers. Thank you strangers for going through the toy aisle of some unknown store. Thank you for thinking of the children who could not afford such items. Thank you for wanting to ensure they get the experience of interactive imagination with toys. With toys they will appreciate for a lifetime long after they are lost in the mix of things. Thank you for aiding my passion for science fiction, for aiding my imagination, and for reminding me that there are unknown strangers who impact a person’s life with kindness. Finally, thank you for inspiring me to write this, so that I may let others know of the impact such small things can have on a child. To remind others that even though the gift brought happiness, it was the source will of those who purchased it, and the intention of goodness it meant to bring about which mattered most. So, thank you Christmas Strangers.
– Margarita Cavazos