“To Warm the Heart (and the Feet)” Friend, Jan. 1995, 15
The shouts and laughter of children on the playground filtered through the schoolroom windows. Mayela’s crayon made wide bands of red down her paper over and over again. Red made her feel happy and warm inside, even on snowy days like today.
Briiing! The bell rattled the windows. Mayela shoved the paper into her desk, flopping the lid down just as her classmates poured through the door.
Brittany wriggled into the seat across the aisle. She rubbed her cheeks vigorously. “I made a snow angel on the hill, but it’s no fun playing alone.”
Mayela scrunched down in her seat. She wanted very much to play with Brittany, but Miss Lynn had said that she couldn’t go out for recess until she remembered to wear snow boots to school. The truth was that she didn’t have any—but she was too proud to tell the teacher that. She hadn’t needed them last year in Texas, where she used to live.
The rest of the afternoon seemed to fly by—spelling, a science experiment, writing in their daily journal. When the bell rang again, school was over.
“Mayela, I want to speak to you.” Miss Lynn stopped her on her way out of the classroom. “I hate to see you staying in for recess every day. And I’m concerned about your walking to school and back home in the snow without boots. Please wear them tomorrow. If you don’t, I’ll have to call your mother.”
Mayela looked down and nodded quickly.
In the hall, Brittany grabbed her arm. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing—she’s after me to wear boots, that’s all.” Mayela fought to keep the tears from spilling down her cheeks.
As they struggled into their coats, Brittany said, “I have an idea—you wear one of my boots, and I’ll wear the other until we get to my house. It’ll be fun, and we can see how many times we can hop on our boot foot on the way.”
Mayela remembered this morning’s walk to school. Her feet had been so cold that she couldn’t feel her toes. She smiled gratefully.
She pulled Brittany’s boot onto her right foot. Her foot slid around in the big boot, but it felt warm.
The two girls left school, arm in arm. They struggled to hold each other up as they hopped. By the time they reached the crossing, they were giggling hard.
“What have we here”—the officer stopping traffic grinned— “a pair of frog twins sharing boots?”
The two girls laughed out loud. Blonde Brittany was the tallest girl in class; black-haired Mayela, the shortest.
When they reached the next corner, Brittany said, “Let’s trade boots—my hopping foot is tired.”
Brittany leaned over. “Look at that. Your foot barely reaches my little toe.” She sighed. “It must be nice to have small feet.”
Mayela giggled. “Maybe, but I’ll never grow tall enough to be a model, either.”
“Do you think I will?”
“Sure! Papa says that people are like puppies—they grow to fit their feet.”
The girls parted in front of Brittany’s house, Mayela returning the boot with a heart-felt thank-you. She hurried the rest of the way home to the trailer court.
That night at supper she pushed her rice and beans around on the plate. “Miss Lynn said that I have to have snow boots by tomorrow or she’s going to call you.”
Papa looked sad. “There is no money, little one. You can’t buy things without money. Next payday, perhaps, but not by tomorrow morning. You’ll just have to explain to your teacher.”
Mayela swallowed and blinked her eyes quickly. She felt sobs building inside like black clouds in a thunderstorm.
She woke up the next morning, convinced that it would be the worst day of her life. The overcast sky and sharp wind seemed to confirm her feelings. She had to pick her way through the slushy sidewalk snow. One misstep and icy slush would soak her canvas shoes.
Up ahead, Brittany danced from one foot to another, clutching a brown paper bag. “Hurry up. I’m cold.”
“What’s in the bag? Something for show-and-tell?”
Brittany shook her head. She thrust the bag into Mayela’s hands. “This is for you. I think Miss Tiny Foot can fit into my last year’s snow boots.”
The boots were stained from last spring’s mud puddles, but they looked warm—and they were red!
“You don’t mind, do you?” Brittany asked. “Friends share.”
Mayela didn’t know if she minded or not. A glance at her friend’s anxious face helped her decide.
She steadied herself by leaning against Brittany who put her arm around Mayela while she took off one shoe at a time and shoved her feet into the pile-lined luxury of the red boots. “Ah, that feels so good!” She wiggled her toes. There was plenty of room inside. “Thank you, Brittany. Your heart’s as big as”—she grinned— “as big as your feet!”