There Is No Short Cut Without Sacrifice
Early Saturday morning we were running. Jumping out of bed, racing into the bathroom, scrubbing teeth with toothbrush, running combs through strands of wild hair, splashing water on our face, tying up our shoelaces, swallowing whole tacos full of huevo con chorizo.
Mijo, comete esto antes de que te vayas…va ‘tar bien caliente y ustedes pobrecitos van a estar en el solazo todo el día. Ay, me da mucho cuidado con ustedes. No me gusta que estén afuera tanto tiempo.
Every Saturday was the same. Before we’d board the van waiting for us at the entrance of the Bali Hai apartments, halfway full by this time with boys, 10 to 12 years old like us, lazily struggling to keep their eyes open, my mother would insist we eat something before heading out the door.
Just me and my brother Chuy.
In transition from children to adults, man-boys is what we were. Working made us feel responsible, proactive, self-sufficient, like we were carrying our own weight around, acarriando-ing nuestro propio granito de arena pa la casa. In truth, I don’t even remember how we began working for the distributors of the Houston Post. All I knew was come six in the morning my brother and I had to be ready to go, literally inside their van. If we weren’t, they would leave without us and find some other kids to replace us at the next stop. The one good thing about our job was that even though our ride would show up at the crack of dawn, by the time we actually made it to our store it was closer to 8 o’clock and the light of day would already be shining upon us.
First they’d take us to the distribution center. There we’d pick up our newspapers, transfer into our box truck, which we were told would take us to our final destination for the day, with as many other kids as possible, ride another thirty minutes to an hour, gathering signs, bags and other needed materials for the job, one by one unloading our stacks of newspapers when it was our turn to get down.
Those summers at the grocery stores were actually pretty fun! All the oohing and aahing from complete strangers confused and surprised to find kids as young as us yelling Houston Post…Houston Post…Houston Post; friendships made with working teenagers as young as 16, young adults in their early 20’s; the thrill of roaming through the stores whenever we could get one of them to watch our newspapers; and the happiness of seeing our parents drive up all the way from our apartments just to drop us off our homemade lunches. Como estan…no se asolen tanto…tomen agua…si les da mucho calor metanse a la tienda a caminar… my parents would go on and on like this every time. While their words annoyed me they also appeased the little boy inside me – the one not too long ago sitting in the living room of our apartment watching Saturday morning cartoons with his younger siblings, not working for a living.
Chuy wanted Nintendo games. I wanted lunch money. That was our motivation.
Our reality was we couldn’t bear to see our mother suffer. As soon as we’d get home we’d proudly take whatever we had made that day, usually 15 to 20 dollars, and place it in her hands.
It wasn’t much. But it was all we could offer.