The bakery was closed when Papa made our announcement. Rosalba, Lúpe, Hector, and the other children who had been learning to bake, filled the quiet kitchen; I could tell they were afraid of bad news by the way their eyes moved back and forth. I saw that their clothes needed washing again, and some needed new shoes. Would they be happy to hear that clothes and shoes were no longer a problem? Would they want to be clean all the time, and busy, and learning? Or would they be sorry to lose their terrible freedom in the streets?
Sandro said many older children could not change their ways, that they would rather drink or do drugs and die on the street, than live in a home with rules. I prayed that these children, who had been trying so hard, would not feel that way.
So Papa told them about the señora’s house and the classes. Also, about going to school and sleeping in their own bed. Sometimes, Lucero nodded at them to let them know it was true. So did Sandro. There was complete silence after Papa spoke. I saw that Rosalba had tears running down her face.
“We want you to come,” said Mama, finally. “We think it will be a wonderful thing for each of you, to have a new life in our school, to learn things, to grow up with a way to make a living. Already, you have worked hard at your lessons here, so I know you have strong hearts. But—this is your choice. You don’t have to come. The bakery will still be giving out food like always, though we will not be teaching here anymore. It’s up to you.”
Hector raised his hand. “We don’t know this señora. What is she doing this for? She must have a lot of money!”
“Señora del Campo is a very generous woman, that is true. But she is also a woman who believes in family, and in helping each other. You…” and here Mama looked at each of them, “...have all lost your families. This is your chance to belong to a new one. You may not know the señora yet, but you know Papa and me and Consuelo, Lucero and Sandro, Gabriella and Carlos. Will you let us be your family now? Will you come to our new home with us?”
Rosalba wiped her eyes. “I will come!” she said. “I will come and learn to be a baker.”
“Gracias, Rosalba,” smiled Mama.
“I will come, too,” said Lúpe, “I would like my own bed and a house to live in. I am sick of the streets.”
“Muy bien, Lúpe!” said Mama.
Hector nodded slowly. “OK. I will come and be part of your family, Señora. I think it’s a good family.”
After that, the kitchen was buzzing with noise. The children had many questions and were full of excitement. But I noticed that none of them turned down our offer; all 15 were coming home with us, Diary.
Lucero squeezed my hand as all of us walked to Señora del Campo’s house in the twilight.
“My heart has grown big, Consuelo,” she whispered to me. “It almost hurts.”
“Mine has, too,” I replied. “Bigger than I ever thought it could. To fit our new family in, si?”
“Yes,” smiled Lucero. “That must be why.”