Happiness can be fleeting, even for people living comfortable, predictable lives. Some people might wonder: how can migrant kids be happy when they are constantly moving from place to place, facing so much uncertainty, and enjoying little material comfort?
While we won’t venture to claim that farmworker children are any happier than anybody else – their lives ARE extremely difficult – in the essays we receive for the annual Children in the Fields Art & Essay Contest, we do learn about some of the small and big pleasures that keep migrant kids going.
For example: sneaking a blueberry or two while picking! Here’s an excerpt from an essay we received in 2016:
“My stomach rumbles for the first time today and I steal a glance at the clock: 10:45 AM. I still have about another hour or so until I go to lunch at noon, but my stomach wants something now. Since it’s Thursday, we’re picking blueberries – I don’t really like ‘em since they are unpredictable, sometimes sweet or sometimes tart. I wouldn’t mind them if I knew they are going to be sweet, but the tart ones are why I’m not totally in favor of them. As I empty a handful into the bucket that’s secured to my waist by my jean’s front button, I leave two blueberries in my hand and pop ‘em into my mouth. I’ve gotten lucky – they are both sweet.”
Then, there’s the strong, familial bond within close-knit farmworker families. In her winning essay for the 10-13-year-old category last year, Licsy Limón evoked some strong imagery as she described a typical morning and evening at home with her mom:
I see the light from the kitchen coming into my bedroom.
I hear my mom mixing the rice on the stove to prepare the lunches.
I smell the strong smell from the spicy peppers that will go in the burritos.
I touch the soft, silky blanket on top of my bed.
I hear my mom coming home from picking blueberries all day long.
I touch the rough couch pillow that she bought with money made in the fields.
I see the blueberry stains on my mom’s hat.
I feel happiness that my mom is home safe with me.
I smell the dirt on my mom’s clothes.
I hear my mom talk to the Rite-Aid nurse about my medication.
I feel my mom’s arms hugging me and I don’t want to let go.
I smell my mom’s clean wavy hair after she showers.
I touch my mom’s hand and hold it tight.
I see my mom’s tired eyes closing as she falls asleep.
I hear my mom telling me, “Good night, Mami, I love you very much.”
Seeing their parents work so hard and come home so tired, these kids do lament what farmwork robs them of: time spent with their mom and dad, as well as the energy their parents don’t have to be fully present when they ARE home. However, CIFC essayists are quick to express admiration for their parents’ sacrifice, as well as the inspiration their parents’ work ethic gives them to succeed.
One contestant wrote, “By not giving up, [my mother] has influenced me to reach for my goals and to never quit.”
Another said, “My dad is a fountain of inspiration for me, because he does everything he can so his family has everything we need and we don’t lack for anything. Thanks to him I know I can go far in this country.”
This is often what powers migrant kids forward: the motivation to do well so they can one day give back to their parents and communities. Here at AFOP, we have gotten to know a LOT of farmworker children, and each one finds a way to impress us. Just recently, we heard that one CIFC contest winner is graduating from high school with three associate’s degrees. Yes, you read that right: out of HIGH SCHOOL. In their essays, farmworker children frequently divulge their biggest dreams and ambitions, telling us they aspire to be lawyers, police officers, supreme court justices, interpreters, truck drivers, singer/songwriters, doctors, and more. These young people’s characters are forged under the most difficult of circumstances, giving them a grit that is invaluable as they grow and face the world head-on.
In the words of one farmworker child: “Hard work pays off and I hope that my parents’ hard work will pay off with myself and my siblings with time so that they could take a break and fulfill their own dreams that have also been paused for us. They give me that faith everyday to make of life what they couldn’t.”
We have watched so many of them flourish, including the remarkable young woman mentioned above graduating high school with three associates degrees (more on her in an upcoming blog). Whether their dream is to follow in their parent’s footsteps, become an artist, start a family, or practice law, we are happy to share the masterpieces of migrant children with you all through the Annual CIFC Essay and Art Contest: open now.