While I was with her, Tia took me to La Romana and it was officially the most beautiful and pristine place I've ever seen in my life. I had fresh limeade- I always remember that- actually watched as this woman pulled limes off of a tree and made my drink, and ate a burger with GREEN tomatoes!
And there was a boy (isn't there always?) I was all of ten but I still had crushes. And he was so dreamy. He'd walk around in shorts, no shirt and a small portable Casio keyboard that he'd play random tunes on. Oh how I wanted to be his muse! Once, my cousins and I went to this place that I suppose was some sort of swimming hole, I can't really remember it well, but he was there playing a tune on his Casio, at least that's how my memories are recalling it, and I was so at peace with my life at that moment. I remember that feeling and reach for it often.
At my Acosta Family Compound I experienced a whole other style of living- more pretension that I had expected, but still fun (despite the armed guards, chaperones, thieving maids and visible firearms all over the place). I was taken to a salon for my first relaxer (against my mother's wishes!), played jacks in the road, went to a discotheque (at age ten, BITCHES!), went shopping at fancy boutiques and watched as a local artisan made me the most adorable ceramic poodle. It was definitely a life I could have become accustomed to. Well, except for having to grab chickens out of the yard for slaughtering. That I can live my entire life without ever seeing again, EVER.
I then went to stay with my Tia CruzDelia and visit with my Ortiz family. Again, a whole different style of life. Tia lived in a shack with a tin roof, a latrine out back and just the dirt ground for a floor. But I was ten so of course I had the time of my life at her house, too. I also noticed that my cousins were wearing a lot of clothes that looked familiar- my hand-me-downs that I'd seen Mami pack in a suitcase and ship down earlier that year. I knew that in Brooklyn we were poor, but the fact that my relatives on the Island were waiting anxiously for my cast-offs (perfectly good clothes that I just decided I no longer wanted, like a spoiled diva) made me grateful for what I had back home.
On the flight home, back when American Airlines fed you real food, I had my fist taste of pancakes wrapped around a sausage link and realized the two were meant to be together always. I was also introduced to the uniquely Dominican tradition of applauding after every safe landing. That trip improved my Spanish, my bond to my entire family, my appreciation for what I had at home and made me feel this connection that wasn't there before. These were my people. This was where we came from. This is where it began. Even though I wasn't born there I felt as if I were HOME.
I cried when I had to come back to New York. I wanted to stay there forever.
Visit La Romana and even though it's probably all built up now, it might give you a small taste of what it was like to have grown up like me.
Wonderful, beautiful, Dominican me.
*besos...with a sudden urge to call my Tias*
amazing how life makes you forget who and what is really important sometimes. I miss my family- and how close we used to be- a lot.