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Esperanza nurses her mother day and night, but Mama isn't getting any better.
One morning, Mama asks Esperanza to get out Abuelita's blanket. Remember the zigzag pattern? The blanket is still in the beginning stages. It's only as wide as a scarf.
Esperanza remembers that Abuelita had asked her to finish the blanket for her. So Esperanza picks up her crochet hook and gets to work.
As she crochets, Esperanza weaves the hairs that fall into her lap into the yarn, so that her wishes will go into the blanket forever. She cries, hoping so hard that Mama will not die.
As the days go by, women in the camp bring Esperanza extra yarn, and Esperanza doesn't care that they don't match.
Every night, Esperanza covers Mama in the blanket. But Mama gets worse and worse.
Sometimes Esperanza finds Mama crying. It seems like, after all her hard work and determination, Mama has finally given up.
When winter comes and Mama is still not better, the doctor tells the family she needs to go to the hospital in Bakersfield.
Alfonso drives them to the hospital, and the nurses only let Esperanza stay for a few minutes.
The doctor says Mama is depressed. Esperanza doesn't know what that means, so Hortensia explains: In just a few months, Mama has lost her husband, her home, and her wealth, and now she's separated from her mother. That's a lot of stress for one person to handle.
Sometimes sadness and stress can make a person sicker, Hortensia says.
Esperanza wants to write to Abuelita, but Hortensia reminds her that the evil step-uncles are watching the mail. Maybe eventually they can find someone who's going to Aguascalientes to carry a letter to Abuelita.
Esperanza feels that Mama needs Abuelita in order to get better. She just knows it.
The next day, Esperanza waits to talk to Miguel. She has a plan.
Esperanza and her Mama have had no money coming in ever since Mama got sick. Esperanza also knows that Abuelita can't get her money out of Tío Luis's bank. Maybe if Esperanza can get some money to Abuelita, Abuelita will be able to join them sooner.
Esperanza tells Miguel she needs a job.
She's not old enough to work in the sheds, but she's tall, and if she wears her hair up, maybe the bosses won't notice.
Miguel tells Esperanza that Hortensia and Josefina will be cutting potato eyes for three weeks. Maybe she can try that.
Esperanza doesn't even know what potato eyes are, but she's willing to give it a shot. Gainful employment, here she comes.
Esperanza puts on all of the warm clothing she has and rides out to the sheds with the others.
The packing shed is as long as six train cars. The railroad tracks run along one side, and the docks for the trucks run along the other.
Normally, the shed is full of people, but cutting potato eyes is different. There are only about twenty women working that day.
Esperanza copies what the other women do. They cut up the potatoes, leaving two dimples, or eyes, in every piece. These pieces will be planted in the ground, where they'll grow into new potatoes.
Sidebar: Shmoop just learned something new.
Marta's aunt is in the group. She has the inside scoop on what's going on with the strikes. Apparently La Migra, the immigration authorities, have been rounding up Mexicans and asking to see their papers. If the workers don't have their papers with them, the authorities might send them back to Mexico—even if they're citizens.
She also warns the women that the striking workers have been talking about harming Mexicans who continue to work. Yikes.
Marta's aunt and uncle have told Marta she can't stay with them anymore. They don't want to risk losing their jobs because of their niece.
Esperanza is determined. If she is lucky enough to have a job in the spring, there's no way she's going to stop because of the strikers.
Esperanza helps Isabel to make a yarn doll for her friend Silvia.
Isabel wants Esperanza to tell her stories about Christmas at El Rancho de las Rosas, but Esperanza doesn't really remember very well. Her old life seems like it happened forever ago.
When Esperanza goes to bed, she cries. She's been doing that a lot lately.
Isabel tells Esperanza not to cry, and crawls into bed with her and a whole bunch of yarn dolls.
Esperanza wishes she could be as carefree as Isabel.
On Christmas day, Esperanza goes to visit her mom in the hospital. She wishes she could give her a nice gift, but all that she has is a smooth stone that she found in the fields.
Mama doesn't wake up during Esperanza's visit, but Esperanza sits and talks to her while she works on Abuelita's blanket.
Esperanza tells her mother not to worry. She's in charge now.