Rafiella Rodriguez is five. Yesterday, with cookie crumbs resting like snowflakes atop a tangle of brown curls, and the beginnings of a frown on her tiny face, she voiced her main concern about Christmas:
"I been kinda worrying that Santa might get mugged if he tries to come up Florida Avenue with all them toys."
Rodriguez, along with more than 300 other Washington children attended a Christmas party sponsored by the 3rd District police Saturday at the studios of WUST radio at 9th and V streets NW. If she and her friends are an accurate barometer, the Sugar Plum fairy has had it.
The magic of Christmas and the harshness of reality go hand in hand for many of the city's youngsters.
Next to Rafiella sat Tyrone B. Cornell Jr., a man of wisdom at the age of 9, who had a different way of looking at things. "She's just silly, just a plain old silly girl," he said. "Ain't no Santa Claus, anyway. She better be hoping her mama done paid the Master Charge."
The important thing about Christmas, Cornell said, "is you don't have to go to school, so you got more time to boogie." As if on cue, the opening bars of "Another One Bites the Dust," by the British rock group Queen, hit the air, and Cornell, feet clad in jazzy running shoes, hit the floor.
Adults may cluster together at Christmas gatherings to debate the worthiness of various politicians or bemoan the cost of just about everything. But the hot topic at several children's parties yesterday was Santa Claus. Man or myth? Chimney or front door? And would they boot a reindeer if he was on the street too late, a question that deeply troubled three 8-year-old girls who were last seen hunting up a police officer at the 3rd District party to get an official answer.
At the Terrell Recreation Center at First and L streets NW, several children attending a neighborhood Christmas party expressed concern for those who might not have a bountiful holiday.
"Do you think it's true that some kids don't get anything ," 10-year-old Monica Womack asked. "Maybe we ought to have another party and invite them. mTo me, Christmas means sharing. You know, you get to look at someone's face when they get something they really, really wanted. I think it's sad if some people might not get anything at all."
Across the room, 6-year-old Bonita Williams said she has been thinking about snow ever since Thanksgiving. "How could it be Christmas if you don't got no snow?" she asked.
Her mother, Linda Williams, began to shake her head. "She's been asking me this question at least three times a day," Williams said. "She wants to know how Santa will get here -- she thinks I ought to put ice cubes in the living room to make it easier. I sure hope it snows a little before Christmas Day. She's driving me crazy."
Rosita Williams, a 9-year-old attending a party in Southwest Washington for Hispanic children, was also worried about the snow -- but for a different reason.
"If it snows, my brother's car won't start and then we couldn't go to church. And we don't get any presents till after church, so I hope it stays just like it is."
Gabriella Sanchez and Tony Santos had another problem. They had just been down to Woodies, where they saw one version of Santa Claus -- a white one. But at the 3rd Distric party, Santa was black. Which one would be visiting them?
"I live on Harvard Street, and Tony lives around the corner," Sanchez said. "So I bet it's gonna be the black one." Santos accepted her theory, and, stuffing a wet cookie in his pocket, strode off in the direction of the music.
"Hey lady," Tonya Haynie said from her corner of the room, "you know what i think? I don't think Santa's going anywhere if he doesn't lose some weight. Pulling that bag of toys is gonna give him a heart attack." l