MISSION — The Rosales family won’t be spending Christmas together this year but that’s sort of become a tradition at this point.

Nearly every year since 2009, Laura and Jose Rosales spend about 24 hours a day for two weeks selling fireworks around the holidays.

The work is long and the pay is commensurate with what they sell but it’s one of the few jobs that Jose can take on to support his and Laura’s seven kids.

Though he still does some handyman work, Jose has been unable to bring in a steady paycheck due to stomach ulcers he developed in 2008, placing the majority of the financial burden on Laura.

Having mostly worked in food service, Laura was pleasantly surprised when she was hired to work in human resources through a staffing agency, Advanced Services Inc.

“It was surprising for all of us because, since I didn’t have nothing or anything, they gave me this opportunity,” she said.

Her income provides for their children, who range in age from 7 to 18, who all live in a modest house in Mission.

The house is small but it’s theirs and it’s where they’ve lived since 2013.

While the house is theirs, Laura said the property is not and they’ve unfortunately fallen behind on their payments.

“We’re still paying for that property and we are behind because we owed a lot,” she said, “and since it’s only one check and it’s a lot of us … we’re struggling in that.”

And while Laura now has steady job, the limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic caused them to lose out on income they’ve relied on for most of their lives as migrant farmworkers.

Laura has worked in the fields in states up north since she was eight and now, the entire family travels north for work every summer.

The Rosales family sits outside their home Thursday in Mission. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

It’s a job that she, five of their kids take part in, and even Jose takes part in, though in a limited capacity. The medication he takes for the ulcers prevents him being out in the sun for too long and he also can’t lift heavy objects lest he start to bleed.

But the family as a whole work long days in the fields from July until August or September each year.

Last time, though, they were there for two years, going from Houston to North Carolina and eventually ending up in Illinois.

“We were renting over there and still paying bills here so it was just so difficult,” Laura said.

But because of COVID-19, this year was different.

“We had to stay behind,” Laura said. “And that (income) helps us a lot because they help us with bills and they help us for us to buy (the children) their clothes and everything for school.”

And even the income from her HR job wasn’t consistent.

In late February, her employer laid off Laura after she contracted bronchitis. She applied for unemployment benefits but because of red tape, she only received one check.

The problem was that she hadn’t worked in the state long enough to qualify for benefits but the farm working she did in Illinois should have allowed her to access those benefits.

Unfortunately, she was unable to get anyone from the unemployment office on the phone to help with her situation.

Eventually, though, she was rehired in May and has been working there since.

Though the main breadwinner for the family, she does have some help aside from the small jobs Jose takes on.

Her oldest son, Frankie Pascual, works at a cremation center.

Though Laura won’t have to report to her HR job on Christmas, she’ll be helping Jose with the fireworks stand which they’ll be starting the 19th or the 20th.

Some of the older kids, those 14 and older, will also be helping out at the stand.

“And that’s going to go towards their Christmas gifts as well and (partly) for our property,” Laura said.

Kevin Rosales runs from his home Thursday in Mission. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Affording things for the family has gotten tougher for them over the years as the kids have gotten older and bigger.

“They need more stuff, they eat more,” Laura noted.

Treatment for Jose’s ulcers is also a large expense.

Though he doesn’t qualify for Medicaid, he’s received help from Nuestra Clinica Del Valle, a health center that serves individuals of low income and uninsured families in Hidalgo and Starr Counties.

Jose needs to get an endoscopy, Laura said, but his medical bills are too high.

He also can’t afford the medication he’s supposed to take which costs approximately $300 for a week’s worth. Instead, he’s taking a generic version of the medication that he was prescribed at Clinica Del Valle.

Despite their struggles, Laura said they’re thankful they have a roof over their heads and the children have no shortage of aspirations for the future.

Jose Jr., 17 and currently a senior in high school, plans to go to college to study economics while Frankie, who graduated from high school last year, plans to enroll in South Texas College to obtain his welding certificate.

To donate, call the United Way of South Texas at (956) 686-6331 between 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and inquire about contributing to the Spirit of Christmas campaign. Due to COVID-19, only monetary donations are being accepted for families in need.