Summer Vacation in the Cotton Fields

When I was a kid, I always wanted our family to take a vacation to Disney World, but we were too poor.  Instead of going to Disney World, I spent my summers in the cotton fields helping my mother earn money to feed all five of us.  I became an avid reader as soon as I learned to read English which was at about the age of seven.  I read about family vacations, so I created special summer trips in my mind as I picked cotton.

Summer Vacation in the
Cotton Fields
Every year, on the first day of school, I could count on my teacher’s first assignment.  We had to write about how we spent our summer vacation and then read what we had written to the rest of the class.  It never mattered what grade I was in, the assignment was always the same; and it was nothing that my classmates or teachers could relate to.

Every summer I would pick cotton, but nobody else in my class picked cotton.  They all had something exciting to read to the class.  Some had gone to Disney World with their families, others had gone to the big cities of San Antonio, Austin or Houston to visit relatives, while others had stayed on South Padre Island for most of the summer.  I couldn’t even begin to relate to those experiences.  Some summers, Mom would save enough money to take us to visit our father’s relatives in Mexico.  None of my classmates ever talked about visiting relatives in Mexico.

I was so embarrassed about picking cotton and visiting relatives in Mexico that I lied about what I did during my summer vacation.  I would write that I had spent most of my summer on South Padre Island.  That was how I explained the tan I’d gotten from spending time in the cotton fields.

I wish I had had then the pride in my culture as I do now.  I wish I could have just told my teachers and classmates that I had picked cotton and visited my relatives in Mexico.

Now that I am an adult, I am sharing my cotton picking life stories and lessons with pride and joy.  I realize that my experiences were unique and helped me become the woman that I am today.  Picking cotton was hard, but my mom turned it into a fun and learning experience.  It was definitely nothing to be ashamed of, but I did not know any better.

Visiting Mexico helped me understand my dad’s culture and gave me an insight about another country.  The trips to Mexico that Mom insisted we take helped me appreciate people that are different from me.

As a child and young adult, I was so ashamed that I lied about who I was.  I am proud of the fact that I am no longer ashamed.  I can let the whole world know that being different is a good thing.  To this day, I do not fully understand why I was ashamed of my life.  I understand that I am proud of every experience that made me different and helped me become the special person that I am.
 Discussion and Writing Prompts:

1.  Write an essay about something that you have lied about and wish you hadn’t.

2.  Illustrate a cover that you would use with this story.

3.  Do you think that her classmates would have understood about picking cotton and visiting relatives in Mexico?  Why or why not?  Explain your answer in an essay.

4.  Select a tradition from your culture that you think is unique.  Why do you think others would have difficulty understanding this particular tradition?  Write an essay explaining your point of view.

5.  Create an interview with questions that you would like to ask the narrator of this story.  Be able to justify why you would ask each particular question.

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