The first home I remember was the house on 9th street near the Santa Ana river
My family had just come to the United States and we had very little money so we found ourselves living here at this big blue house…
Well, sort of
We actually rented the garage that the owners had modified to include a small kitchen and a restroom.
On the side of the garage was a door that led out to a patio where my sisters and I used to play.
I remember doing two things on that patio.
Picking loquats from our neighbors overflowing tree
And peeking over the big brick wall that separated us from Strawberry fields
known as Otsuka farms.
I remember climbing up so I could peek at the men and women at work on the fields.
Sometimes they would bring their children along the children would pick strawberries too.
In those days my mother would go on long bike rides. She would ride up and down the Santa Ana River.
And on her way home she would stop at produce stand that was part of the farm and pick us up a little basket of strawberries.
It became one of my most vivid childhood memories.
After a few years my family had enough money to rent a house of our own and we left the big blue house.
Its been decades now since those days of peeking over the wall.
I have lived in many different homes since then
I’m in a completely different state now but I never forgot those strawberry fields.
These days I find myself frequenting our local farm with my children. Picking fruits and vegetables from the you pick garden.
And now It’s strawberry season.
I find these moments interesting. The ones where memories of my childhood become intertwined with memories of my children
The ones we are making now
as I watch them happily bouncing through the rows of strawberries and I remember the laborers I once watched from behind the wall.
After our last trip to the farm I looked up what became of the fields and learned that Otsuka farms had closed down many years ago.
I don’t know why but it made me cry.
I read stories of the owner. The way he mourned the end of an era at the realization that the land he was on was worth more than what he was growing on it. So after more than 50 years in business he was bought out by the school district.
How ironic that the place where I once saw children looking up and learning from their parents has since become a school.
I thought of the field workers.
The crucial role that they play in our food system to this day.
Getting up at the crack of dawn to stoop over for 6- 10 hours hours a day.
Doing something that can’t be done with a machine and can only be accomplished by carefully hand picking each strawberry one by one.
It might seem as though these memories of my childhood would be unpleasant but I can’t to share them with my children
Because I saw from a young age the amount of work and sacrifice that goes into the food that ends up on our table. I want to teach them that.
To value and respect it.
Those are memories I hold close
The fertile land just beyond the Santa Ana river.
The big blue house on 9th street.
It’s all a part of who I am.
It’s a part of them too.