The bright sun was warm against her face. Sweat was forming on her sunburnt forehead. She knelt and picked a potato off the green plant and placed it in her basket. It was almost full of all the others she had harvested. She wiped her forehead and she could hear the children laughing and playing at the school yard just beyond her house. Her curiosity got the better of her and she snuck away and peered through the wooden fence of the small school yard. She saw the little boys and girls swinging on the rope tire, others playing tag, some just playing marbles. Her heart yearned to be there, but she knew she could not attend. It wasn’t that her father didn’t believe in education, it was that he needed her to help with the farm. “Ofelia!” yelled papa yanking her back to reality. She immediately ran back, she learned at an early age to obey papa, otherwise the leather belt or skinny tree branch would leave marks on her bottom.
“Com’mon hita, finish up! We have to go into town tomorrow to sell these potatoes.”
“Yes, Papa!” she frowned.
They worked until the sun began to fall behind the mountains, which overlooked the entire village. Ofelia always stopped to admire the colors of the sunset. The oranges, reds, purples, and how the clouds had a glow that gave her a sense of peace and love. The sun quickly sinking or perhaps being swallowed by the mountain, not knowing where the sun would go to rest.
As they walked into their little adobe house, Mama was in the kitchen making tortillas and frijoles. Ofelia could smell the dough being cooked on the fire stove and hear the pot of beans boiling. Ofelia loved cooking and baking with her mama. No cookbooks, no written recipes, though it didn’t matter to her because she couldn’t read anyway. She just memorized the ingredients they had on hand. The Great Depression had hit their family hard so they learned how to stretch every meal so that everyone in the family could eat.
It was a quaint little village called Arroyo Seco where her parents settled after the Mexican War. Being born in the United States automatically gave them and their children citizenship and all the rights that came with it, such as making a living, going to school, and paying taxes. The night was chilly and the stars were twinkling a little more than usual. The night sky always gave quite a show when the air was cool. There was something about looking up at the stars the drew her closer to her faith. She prayed daily and continually to this God and her family belonged to the little adobe catholic church that sat on top of the little hill of the village. “Oye, vete dormir, it’s getting late!” her sister nudged her. “Okay, okay.” Ofelia annoyed and excited. In the morning they would be headed to the main town of Taos. It meant a day of riding in the wagon and visiting shops and other family members. Ofelia was saving some money to buy some of that sweet candy she was gifted last Christmas by her papa. Salty and sweet which gave her soul the satisfying relief of hope that life could be sweet.
There were no dreams that night. Leaving to Taos meant leaving way before the sun peeked over The Mountain. No time to dream when you have to wake up that early. Mama made coffee, fried potatoes and scrambled eggs from their chickens. Ofelia helped her make the tortillas. The family ate around the homemade table that was still not big enough to fit everyone, but somehow they managed to do so.
“Make sure you feed the sheep and dig the holes for the posts while we’re gone hito.” papa yelled at the older bother Juan. “I know, Papa! No te preocupes, don’t worry.”
“El dice ,No te preocupes, so he says, last time you forgot to lock the chickens up after feeding them, remember. It took four hours and one dead chicken to get them back in! Don’t dare lose that sheep!”
“Si, tonto!” Laughed the younger brother Polo.
“Shut up!!” yelled Juan.
“Vente, it’s time to go.” Papa announced, trying to break the rivalry between the brothers. Papa leans into Mama and kisses her on the cheek. “Be careful,” as she looks with worried eyes.
Ofelia got to ride in the back of the wagon with all the sacks of potatoes. The ride was bumpy and slow. The family could not afford a horseless carriage, so they continued to use the old wagon that served their family for two generations.
The wagon was not covered so Ofelia was able to enjoy the view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The sun was rising and Ofelia was so grateful, she was starting to get a little cold and she loved the warmth of the sun.
A few hours later, Ofelia could see the Pueblo and she knew that meant they were almost there. She dug in her pockets and felt the loose change. She could taste the sweet candy on her tongue. Little did she know, that the day would not go as she had hoped.