At work we are all roped into charity this year; we are making Christmas shoe boxes. For those unfamiliar, you fill a shoe box with little presents for a little boy or girl in a deprived area of the world. Here we could start a whole debate about the ethics of involuntary ‘good deeds’ which are, even worse, attached to ‘a religion’. ( This is because God doesn’t love children who don’t believe in Jesus and thus they don’t get presents – luckily the organisation pops in an extra booklet about Christ, just in case…) but let us not.
Anyway I was cynical. Especially because the piece of paper said the boxes go to Africa, Eastern Europe Asia and then advises to pack things like: a scarf, gloves, sunglasses… Ok, now they probably have cold nights in Africa, but really generally? Surely I cannot pack for every change of weather in a shoebox ( though I seem to have practised when flying Ryan Air – which I am now boycotting by the way. It is ridiculous that they charge to take a bloody bag! I do admit it helps I live near London City Airport, it is easier to have principles that are also convenient… )
So this evening I found myself in a local big supermarket and to make this seemingly labourious exercise fun, I had challenged myself to create a box for an 8-yr old boy. See I am from a family which has only girls: me, my sister and then three younger cousins and three older cousins; of which the eldest managed to procreate and delighted us with ( you guessed it) another girl.
Little boys are not my territory, I once spend a week with my friend’s two boys and though they are gorgeous they just surprised me every time. They were boys, physical lots of play-fighting, running, lots of screaming, into creepy crawly scary stuff, they wanted to be knights and Jedi warriors. They also ate a lot and they hadn’t even reached year 3 primary school yet.
Back in the store I felt a little out of my depth, what would a little boy like? Everywhere I could see perfect pink little presents, full of fluff and glitter that would have made my life so much easier. Fairies, wings, purple elephants…But I stuck to it: I picked up several things and put them back again. Once I finally found the right car ( cliche, I know but will I really change the world by giving a deprived boy a gender-borders(con)fusing shoebox: I thought not.) I really got into it. Got a cap, bouncy balls, plastic mini reptiles, a mini calculator, a lion cuddly toy – the most manly I could find obviously -, a drawing pad with colouring pencils, a pencil sharpener, pen, sweets including one that is bright blue and functions as a rattle – it will drive people insane! and a toothbrush with Bart Simpson Bad Boy toothpaste ( yes mother, it seems your dental hygiene issues all rubbed off in the end)
It was incredibly satisfying and it was actually quiet nice to think of little boys as little human beings. Because I forgot to tell you about the times that the two boys I looked after saved me from many a monster in their games, how they sat on my lap and we did art-stuff together,and how when they were cuddled up to me as we were reading stories, I got surprised by a spontaneous marriage proposal. ( Which I politely, yet stupidly declined: I should have post-poned it another decade, chances were this one was going to be a looker – I feel sorry for the many broken hearts on the playground all ready.)
Ladies, it seems that the men we interact with, who we find so confusing and frustrating at times, were once little boys who were sweet and cheeky and dreamed about becoming Jedi-knights who saved Princess Leia from evil monsters only to marry her and live happily ever after. When you think of it: probably not too different to the dreams of little girls.
In my room I tried to find a shoebox to put all my gifts in and found one with irony: some little boy will hopefully be happily surprised opening the shoebox of my £110 shoes which I have worn exactly once. In any case, it will finally turn out to be great value.