Its hard to tell the four little Alarcon girls are in danger of a disappointing Christmas.
Theres feisty little Belen, the youngest, an impossibly cute 2-year-old in a pink Hello Kitty T-shirt. And Kaylie, 3, who thinks shes Dora the Explorer from television. Theres also Aileen, 5, who loves boots, and soft-spoken Bianca, 7.
Watch Belen chase them around, waving a half-eaten apple above her head for some reason, and you cant help but smile.
And yet, look closer.
Belen has plenty of room to chase her big sisters around because there is virtually no furniture, other than a dining room table. The familys Christmas tree stands alone by a window, twinkling, with no presents to grace its base.
The childrens father, Mario Alarcon, a native of Morelos, Mexico, says its been a rough year. Speaking through the translation of his teenage daughter Cindy, he says he works warehouse jobs and others as he can find them.
But he hasnt been able to get enough hours. Some weeks he only gets three days of work.
Its kind of a hard situation with so many children, he says.
He and the girls mother, Miriam Hernandez, oversee their family from a spare two-bedroom apartment off Albemarle Road. Public assistance helps with the rent and food. The four little girls sleep on two twin mattresses pushed together on the floor of one bedroom. Cindy sleeps in the other room.
Where do Alarcon and Hernandez sleep?
We sleep here, Hernandez says, in heavily accented English, with the (four) daughters.
As the couple, together 16 years, sit at the little dining table explaining the situation, Belen and the other girls chase one another, giggling nonstop.
Aileen lets out a pint-sized lion roar, and Belen collapses to the floor, giggle-spasms shaking her tiny body.
The girls dont want much for Christmas. Kaylie wants dresses, a Dora the Explorer doll. Belen wants a tricycle.
A Barbie house, Bianca says in a shy whisper.
And Aileen would love what else? some boots.
Even if they dont get any presents, Alarcon and Hernandez have given them one priceless gift already: two loving parents.
Frazier: 704-358-5145; Twitter: @Ericfraz
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