In 1999, we moved into our new house, a three bedrooms, two baths, with a combined living room and dining room, a wall dividing them from the kitchen, which is next to my bedroom. The house has a big backyard with three fruit trees – Lime, Cherries and Orange. The lime tree is on the cemented side of the backyard, smack across from the door back into the house is a cistern, with the water tank behind it. Our neighbor’s mango tree leaves overlapped into our backyard.
I remember our first meeting with our left house neighbors’ had been when my brother’s and I had gone over to ask if they wanted to ride bikes with us, only to find out they didn’t own bikes. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I realized how spoiled we were growing up in the Dominican Republic. We never needed or wanted for anything, we weren’t well off – far from it, but we were taken care of.
My aunts from the U.S. always brought us clothes and gifts so we were always ‘in-style’. I loved my clothes because I only got to wear them on Sundays,therefor I appreciated each outfit. We didn’t have a ton of clothes, just enough to vary it all out. During the week we wore our school uniform, then our afternoon clothes – mostly shorts and tank top and crop tops. Saturdays were spent in casual clothes as well. Sundays were the dress up day, not because we went to church or anything of the sort, but because it was the day that most parents were off work and could hang out with their children – usually taking them to the park [not the swing sets and slides park, but our hometown park where we went to run around and play] or to eat pizza or ice cream.
School was another story.
I went to pre-k with my brother because I apparently cried whenever he had to go to school. I was one of those kids that ate ants – don’t know why I did it, but it only happened once and it was because this boy I was friends with did it too. Then my brother snitched on me, I remember denying it, but I made sure not to eat ants again.
I don’t remember kindergarten at all and I didn’t do first grade because according to my teacher I knew everything that I would get taught there, so I joined my brother in second grade.
Growing up in Bani consisted of waking up at six in the morning for school. Walking five blocks to school to get there before 8, drop our bags in the classroom and then go line up at the front of the school as the flag gets lifted in the air while we sing the national anthem. We didn’t change classes, we had the same teacher for all subjects all the way until fifth grade, when we had different teachers and they were the ones that came to us and we had them every other day because school released us at noon.
Sometimes we would get out at eleven fifty – regardless, the routine was the same: walk back those five blocks to get back home. A ten minute trip in which we enjoyed freedom. I remember getting to walk a couple of blocks with my friends, playing different games as we went along, saying bye as we left them at the corner of the street – my brother and I being the last ones.
I don’t remember doing homework. Not until fifth grade at least, but I’m sure I did it considering I always had A’s and B’s.
The afternoons were divided into many things. I’d either play with my dolls – usually in the galería [the Dominican equivalent of a covered front porch] – or go into the empty front room where my dad’s radio is and start playing music, pretending to be performing at a concert while singing along to Daniela Lujan’s Luz Clarita and El Diario de Daniela soundtracks and Fey’s El Color de los Suenos album.
One thing I always had to do was the dishes [which I hated with a passion] but I had to do them otherwise I wouldn’t be able to watch my novela at 5pm. If by chance I procrastinated doing the dishes and started doing them minutes before five, my mom and my brothers would sit down in front of the TV at five and start playing the novela so I could hear it – it was torturous, especially since my mom always changed the channel whenever I would sneak a peek.
I thought it was rather unfair, that I was the one responsible for doing the dishes. Have always thought it, as I grew older I always threw tantrums at the fact that my brothers weren’t required to do the dishes too – I held quite a bit of resentment over the answer “they’re boys, you’re a girl, it’s your job to do the dishes.” Never had I wished more to have a sister than in those moments, just so I could share the responsibility with someone. All that being forced to do the dishes did to me was make me hate doing them. During my teen years, it became one of my two forms of rebellion – I was obedient in everything except cleaning my room and doing the dishes.
Back to the Dominican Republic and the many afternoons I lived there.
After my novela which ended at 6pm, we were allowed to go outside. There were some days were my brothers were already outside at five because there was a baseball game going on in the little made-up baseball field – which was a plot of empty, fenced land next to a house – two houses down from ours – across the street. A plot of land that is now nonexistent as it was purchased and closed off. Some days the games would take place in the streets – to be honest, the field was reserved for the ‘big’ games, the ones that were all about competition, kids from calle 4 would come and challenge the kids from calle 3 [my street] and they’d play in the field, betting and everything. There was another plot of land at the corner on the right that was also sometimes used as a field since it was bigger, those games were serious.
When the sun came down and after dinner was had, we took turns daily playing various games from hide-and-seek to tag [freeze tag, regular tag, team-up tag, you name it, we played it]. There were other games, but I honestly can’t remember their names, however they mostly consisted of us running around and just being kids.
All of that of course stopped when we moved to America. I feel it was worse for me though, because at least my brothers got my cousin; I was the only girl, with nothing to do except watch TV.
Of course, D.R. wasn’t always peachy for me, sometimes I seemed to be too much for the girls in my neighborhood and they would unfriend me – granted, they would every now and then unfriend the other girls too – but I felt like it happened to me the most, but I would forgive them and forget every time they took me back, because once the girls unfriend you, the entire block unfriends you. I remember one time my ‘boyfriend’ broke up with me because they had unfriended me.
Did this affect me growing up? Maybe. I can’t say I looked back at and remember them unfriending me constantly, I would actually say I blocked those memories from my mind and chose to focus only on the good times, the games we played and the fun we had, rather than that one time we were walking back from one of the cormados and they told me they didn’t want to be my friend anymore, I went home and sat down and cried as my mom watched her novela. That was also the night the guy broke up with me. When my mom finally noticed me sad and lonely and asked me what happened, she went next door to talk to the grown ups who forced them to befriend me again.
It never changed how I interacted with people; I feel I was always lenient with everyone, forgiving their trespasses without a second thought, but now that I think about it, it could’ve been because I would’ve had no one else to play with if I didn’t forgive them. My brothers didn’t really play or hang out with me, so if the neighborhood kids did the same, then I was alone and I never really liked being alone. I liked having fun, so if forgiving and forgetting would allow me to be included, then that’s what I’d do.
In that sense, it did affect me growing up because I had the same mindset throughout school. I always felt that if I didn’t hangout with this group of people then I’d be alone and I didn’t want to be that kid with no friends. In hindsight, I see that I was wrong, it was even proven my senior year in high school when I spent two months sitting with a whole different group of people at lunch because I was offended by a member of my usual group. They never apologized – I suppose they don’t think they were wrong at all – they also never asked me to come back to the table, I was the one that sucked up my pride, humbled myself and went back and apologized.
Looking back, yeah, feeling like people hung around me because they didn’t have a choice does seem to develop from childhood. It seemed that my subconscious held on to all those times I was unfriended and turned me into a people pleaser, add to it all the lies the devil told me about myself and you get what I was for years: a socially awkward girl that would rather be by herself than in a room with other people – even her family.
Some people can get rejected and pick themselves back up like nothing happened. They don’t let it affect them at all.
Others think they’ve gotten over it, but pick up habits that in hindsight show that they really haven’t. That was me.
I’d rather read a book than talk to someone. My holidays consisted of me watching every single movie I owned while my brothers hung out with their friends and some of our relatives.
I’m going to be honest, when I started writing this post, this was not the direction I’d thought it’ll go. However, I do find it therapeutic connecting these dots and will definitely dig in a bit deeper further down the line.
But for now, I want to know, how do you view rejection? Do you keep yourself from doing things for fear of rejection? Or are you someone that goes and does things in spite of possible rejection?
Tell me in the comment sections below, I’d love to hear from you!
THANKS FOR READING!
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