Green tomatoes

Green tomatoes

The box outside, tomatoes to the brim. “Ayudame a pelar los tomates mija” (help me peel the tomatoes) my dad said. I wasn’t going to do it alone, so I yelled at my siblings to come help too.   

Green tomatoes. We peeled a tomato box once a week because my parents need it for work, but each and every tomato in that box has a peel, an outer layer that makes your hands dirty and sticky.  

Gathering around the box in the backyard, my sister, brother, dad, and I begin peeling. The ones with a larger skin are the easiest, those are the ones you can quickly peel without needing to pinch every corner of the tomato, so I grab one of those first. My mom comes and sits with us too. My uncle, who’s home, turns on music and sits down. 

After a couple minutes, the box is halfway done, everyone’s fingers are gross and sticky.  There’s still tomatoes left, but not as many as when we started.

It was the weekend. That morning I woke up late. Didn’t need to wait for the bathroom so long because by the time I got up, everyone had finished using it. Then folded the sheets and ate breakfast. The holidays were near, so mom and I decided to wrap presents in the afternoon. Without my siblings at home of course. We took out last year’s wrapping paper, scissors, and tape then began wrapping. I asked my mom how she was feeling about her surgery tomorrow morning. Turning to look at me, she mentioned how glad she was that it’ll soon be over. Looking at me, her voice quivering as she speaks, and soon enough she’s wrapping her arms around me, telling me how scared she is. She’s 4ft 11, I’m 5ft 2, and as we hugged I felt like a mom, hugging her scared daughter.   

The box of gross and sticky tomatoes is still there. Everyone, my mom, dad, sister, brother, and uncle are all pitching in, almost finished, with just less than a third of tomatoes left. Little by little, tomatoes disappear and soon enough, we finish. The box is empty, the tomatoes are peeled, everyone’s hands are dirty. 

Waking up, folding the sheets, eating my breakfast, was the easiest part of it all. The easy ones with minimal effort from the box. Sometimes I was able to go into the bathroom and brush my teeth with no one pounding on the door, but on school mornings, that was a different story. It ran by luck. At times I randomly grabbed the ripe tomatoes and sometimes I wasn’t so lucky. Despite it all, the tomatoes I tried to avoid most, I couldn’t avoid forever. 

I never thought I’d feel like a mom in front of my mom.  

It’s the process. I don’t expect to peel every easy tomato in that box, and I won’t. There’ll be rotten and ripe ones and I’ll unfortunately, most likely, end up grabbing a mushed one too. However, by the time I get to the final tomato, regardless of whether it’s a good or bad one, I’ll have been glad the work is over, and finally, go wash my hands.   

I aspire to one day thank my parents, siblings, and uncle for our time together. Thank them for picking me up and helping me feel it’s okay to get rid of the layers I carry with me. I hope they choose to do the same for themselves and my siblings. I strive to make my mom, dad, uncle, brother, and sister feel as though their help has created meaning within my life and has allowed me to do things I would have never felt capable of doing before. I never imagined a hug could create such a difference in me, but it did.