As I type this short story, I still wonder why I was ashamed to let others know that I was a field laborer. I felt like I was different, and that people would laugh at me. Or worse yet, maybe, they would feel sorry for me. I always felt so ashamed, and I wish I hadn't. This is who I was, and I didn't want people to know who I really was. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin.
My older sister and I were both in the high school band. I was a freshman and she was a junior at the school. Summer band practice would start three weeks before the first day of school. When we received our letters indicating the schedule for band practice, my sister told me that we would have to rush from the cotton fields, take a bath and be ready to drive into town so that we could make band practice on time. My mom had already made arrangements for one of our aunts to drive us to practice.
While I was bathing for the first band practicie, I remember that every bone in my body ached. My face was red with sunburn and it hurt when I talked or smiled.
My hands were sore with blisters and cuts from the cotton plants. As we were driving into town, I told my sister I hurt all over. She told me to ignore the pain and I would be ok.
I held out my hands and asked, "How can I play my clarinet with the blisters on my hands!"
My sister replied that once I got started the pain would disappear. This was the first time I'd had to go through this ordeal and I wondered how my sister had survived the three years that she had been in the high school band.
Sure enough, I had problems putting my B flat clarinet together and I cringed as I placed the instrument in my mouth. I pretended that my sunburned face did not hurt and I ignored the pain I experienced with every note that I played. When other band members asked if I had spent a lot of time at the beach, I just nodded and smiled.
We practiced playing our music inside the band hall and another reality hit me as the band director announced that we would be practicing our marching in the football field for the next two hours. I discovered a new pain as I lifted each foot to march as our band director had taught us.
I remember looking at my sister with the pain in my eyes. She never complained and continued with the assigned tasks from our band director.
During our drive home, I realized that this would be the ritual for the next two or three weeks. My admiration and appreciation for my sister increased as she modeled the level of endurance necessary to pick cotton and participate in our high school marching band.
At the crack of dawn the next morning, my sister and I followed the early morning ritual of cotton field laborers.
Discussion and Writing Prompts:
1. Why do you think the writer was embarrassed about the fact that she was a field laborer? Explain your answer and opinion in a well elaborated essay.
2. Why do you think the writer's older sister had not explained how difficult it was going to be to participate in the high school band and work in the fields? Explain your answer and opinion in a well developed essay.
3. Illustrate a picture depicting the pain from working in the fields.
4. Using a Venn Diagram, compare and contrast the similarities and differences of working in the fields and marching in the high school band. Write about the comparisons and contrasts in a well developed essay.
5. Create a collage with pictures and adjectives symbolizing the difficulties of working in the fields and turning right around and participating in band practice.