Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dominican Heritage Month, Day 23

You know what I learned when I was about 14 years old? That Washington Heights and pockets of New Jersey are not the only east cost enclaves where you'll find large percentages of Dominican immigrants. There's a small town in Essex County, Massachusetts- Lawrence- that I've affectionately named New England's Little DR.

I was introduced to Lawrence the summer before I started high school, after my mom shipped me up there. I suspect it was to keep me away from a boy who shall remain nameless, and I was beyond miserable at the thought of a whole summer without him.

With Nina, on our way to Drunkville
I showed up at my Tia Alba's house (she's actually my mom's cousin) with a permanent pout. The thought of being in a strange place with my baby cousins was just not how I expected 1989 to go. But then I met my cousins Nina and Mirna, and BOY did I change my tune. I love those heffas, and to this day Nina and I can't get enough of each other. She's definitely at the top of my Ride Or Die list. Oh, and she's insane. And beautiful. And can probably fit in my purse. And I love her do death.

But back to Lawrence. This is a small town. Very small. I believe I walked all over the entire town almost everyday that summer, and never broke a sweat. I learned to ride a bike in Lawrence (YES, at 14. Shut up!) and wrote sad, sappy letters to my beau back home while listening to New Edition records. I rode around with Nina in her car, acting silly and discussing most naughty things, and went with Mirna to bible study (her parents are Jehovah's Witnesses).

This was one of my first experiences playing outside and I am so lucky it was in a place with a million familiar Dominican faces. It really turned into a home away from home. I rarely thought of the beau and instead focused on the Acosta family I'd just met.

If you're ever looking for something to do on a long weekend, there are vans (run by Dominicans, or course. Proceed with caution.) that leave from Washington Heights and leave you at your door in Lawrence for about $60. Hop on the van, stay at the Holiday Inn Express in town and look up my family. They'll feed you, show you a good time and maybe give you a small taste of what it was like to have grown up like me.

Wonderful, beautiful, Dominican me.

*besos...realizing what a blessing in disguise that trip was*
what would I do without Tia and Nina and Mirna?