If you say “yes” to the tour, Vida Fragela will show you each corner of her family’s new-to-them Rock Island house.
The 9-year-old serves as the ultimate guide, pointing out her beloved books such as “Wemberly Worried,” her pet bird, named Richard, and plenty of favorite toys and stuffed animals, pausing in the kitchen to ask her mother, Piedad Salas, in Spanish about what's for dinner.
Salas, who primarily speaks Spanish, often relies on her oldest of three daughters to translate.
“We like it here,” Vida said, speaking for herself and her mom. “It’s a lot better.”
The family, also including 4-year-old twins Luzie and Leyla, moved here from Miami, Florida, three months ago.
“It was very scary to move to a new place,” Vida said, “a new environment, new weather, everything.”
Although it was initially scary and the drive from Florida was long — so long that Vida’s legs were “wiggly” when they arrived in Rock Island — she is happy and proud of her new home.
Vida likes that there’s a big TV to watch “happy movies” on, plenty of space to practice doing the splits and cartwheels and that she has her own room, which she decorated with her favorite things -- hearts, horses and teddy bears.
She doesn’t like everything about the Quad-Cities, however.
“The only thing I don’t like is the temperature,” she said, adding that her sisters don't either. They have never seen snow. “It’s very cold here.”
The change in weather is one reason Tanisha Harris nominated Salas for the annual Quad-City Times Wish List program. Harris is a family service provider with the Skip-a-Long Family and Community Services Home Child Network Rock Island campus, where the twin girls go to day care.
“I knew that (Piedad) may need some things since she did not come to the Quad-Cities with a lot,” Harris said. “I was also aware that moving here from Florida would be a bit of a climate shock and that they were not prepared clothing-wise for the winter. That can be expensive for three girls, especially around the holidays.”
Salas, 26, who was born in Cuba, wanted to move her family here in part because she struggled to find a job and child care in Florida. The twins’ father, Tony Vazquez, also lives in the Quad-City area.
“It’s expensive there,” Vazquez said of Miami. “The rent and everything. It wasn’t easy for them.”
Here, Salas has found work at a temp agency in Moline, child care at Skip-a-Long and affordable housing. In the future, she would like to take classes to learn English.
"It's hard for her sometimes," Vazquez said of the language barrier, "but Vida helps her out."
This upcoming holiday season will be different than others, Vida said, without the presence of her grandmother or father, who live in Florida. But her mother and sisters still plan to make a big meal and watch one of Vida’s favorite movies, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
No matter where they live, Vida enjoys "being together as a family."
Near the end of the home tour, Vida walks into her sisters’ room, and says, “I have to tell you something. This is my favorite thing in this room.”
She moves past the “Frozen”-themed toys and reaches for a small framed print inscribed with this quote: “Life’s truest happiness is found in friendships we make along the way.”
As a proper tour guide would, she offers an explanation.
“I like friendship. Each time that someone is mean that makes me feel bad because we need to be nice to each other,” she said. “You only have one life. You have to enjoy that life and that means not being mean to people and no bullying and just being you.”
She practices what she preaches.
Vida heads back to the kitchen, where she offers a sampling of her leftover Halloween candy. She hugs her younger sister and asks her mother another question, gesturing to their visitors.