Adult Child
by Martina R. Gallegos

My very first paying job was at the age of nine or ten;
I began taking care of my cousin’s first born.
He was probably too heavy for my small stature,
but I don’t recall ever complaining.
I’d take care of him at my cousin’s home at first;
eventually, I earned his parents’ trust,
and I could take the baby to my home.
I loved playing, singing, and laughing with him.
Washing soiled diapers was not as fun, though,
but it was fun going to the stream to wash and play.
Sometimes I’d use my mom’s washing board at home
and her clothesline to dry all the diapers.
Other times  I’d let the baby wade in the stream;
never knew how the parents would feel about it,
but they never asked if he got wet
because he was dry when he got home;
I am just glad we never had accidents.
I also enjoyed sitting on the fence and watching
people come back from the valley,
and the baby enjoyed playing with chicks,
the feathered kind, of course.
I remember my last big “check”;
it was a one hundred peso bill.
I was getting ready to graduate from elementary school,
so I knew what I was going to do with my salary;
I was going to pay for my graduation dress,
and that’s exactly what I did.
There was nothing fancy about it,
but I’d worked for and earned the money for it,
and that no money could buy.
Then I said goodbye and headed for El Norte.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The young man is the baby I took care of.  I took the picture around 1989 when I went back to visit my hometown of Potrero de Gallegos, Valparaiso Zacatecas, Mexico, after becoming a legal U.S. resident.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In the photo above, I’m pictured with my godfather wearing the dress I had made with the salary I earned as a babysitter. I was getting ready to graduate from elementary school in 1978. I don’t know who took the picture or where my godfather is now.


Martina Gallegos 
 came to the United States as an undocumented teenager and attended schools from eighth through graduate school. She’s a stroke/brain injury survivor, and her post-stroke works  have appeared in Altadena Review, Hometown Pasadena, Silver Birch Press, Spectrum, Somos en escrito, Spirit Fire Review, Basta!, and others. Visit her at