Lessons From a Box of Raisins
By Bianca Pulido
ARVIN, Calif. — Have you ever been a teenager working in the fields turning grapes into raisins in the heat? I picked grapes last summer here in Arvin. It started when my mom got home from her first job and I asked her if I could come with her to the fields that evening. She told me to stop speaking nonsense.
I replied, “No really, how hard can it be? I’m just going to pick grapes, right?” Giving me a knowing look, she agreed: “Okay, you want to work in the fields, let’s go then.”
My mom is a single mother of four girls and at this time she held two jobs and neither were easy. It killed me to see her come home tired every afternoon and have to get ready for her next job.
I waited for her outside dressed in shorts and a tee shirt. That is when I learned that you have to be properly covered from head to toe to protect yourself from the heat and insects. I changed into old jeans, a sweater (in the heat!) and a hat. We went to the fields at 5 and could work until the sun went down.
My mom gave me a pair of heavy gloves, a tub, some paper and a pair of scissors to cut the grape bunches. I followed her to a long lane of grapes and she told me to lay the paper on the bottom of the tub, cut the grapes, and fill up the tub. The grapes go on the paper so the sun can turn them into raisins.
“Okay, that’s easy,” I said.
So there I was, doing my job and smiling. Thirty minutes later, I was still doing my job, however I was not smiling anymore. I was tired, hungry, thirsty, and had to use the ladies room. I sat down to take a break. When I turned around, I could see that my mom looked tired but did not take a break.
I realized that I have the most hard-working mom in the universe. Even though she is always tired from her work, she keeps going because she wants to give my sisters and me a better life. At that moment my mom gave me the strength to keep going. I started cutting grapes again without complaining, because that is exactly what my mother does.
Working in the fields was sweaty. My back ached from bending down to cut the grapes and spread them out on the brown paper. I am a young teenager, but I can only imagine what it must feel like for an older person.
Every sheet of paper that we filled up with grapes was 15 cents. At the end of the week together we earned about $80.
To break up the monotony I listened to music, or I told my mom riddles, which she did not get because they are not as good when translated from English to Spanish. The working conditions were harsh; it was hot and there was little water to drink.
This routine lasted for about 2 weeks, until I realized that I could not balance school with working in the fields. School had to come first. Working in the fields motivated me to pursue my education with more enthusiasm, because I sure not want to spend the rest of my life picking grapes in the sun. I am on my way to college!