A few weeks ago I was able to travel back to DR and this time with mami. It’s been 10 years since we’ve traveled together (a huge difference from when I was a kid and we’d make it there every year.
In contrast to my 2005 trip with papi, this time I was the “guide.” The one who’d have to remind her who to call, who to visit, and that yes, bodegas deliver now (even if it’s just for a bag of chips).
We stayed in what used to be my grandmother’s house which we still call “La Casa de Mama” and slept in what used to be mami’s room. It seemed surreal not seeing mama’s altar, her rocking chair with a clear view of the street, nor her guanábana, guayaba, lime trees, and orquideas.
Back when mamá was around we’d spend our evenings en la galería, on rocking chairs, taking in the cool breeze while we awaited the return of la bendita luz (so mamá could watch her lucha libre). Back then securing the house meant having one lock on the door, closing las persianas closest to the door knob, and keeping a light on so people would think someone was home. (I’m a bit too young to say I ever experienced the days cuando se podía dormir con la puerta abierta.)
Today, sitting outside means pulling out fold up chairs in the front yard because sets of rocking chairs get stolen in the middle of the night. Security means keeping anything of even semi value out of eye’s view from the front door. It means caging in your home with bars over every opening, even el callejón. It means having an actual alarm system which we turn on every night, and keeping Bobita (our
doberman) en el patio. The nostalgia not only comes from missing mamá but from missing the way of life from before.
Regardless of those “superficial” changes, the warm ocean water, el malecon, the smells, the sounds, and of course the people are what keep me grounded to this place. It’s my family whom I care deeply about, despite only seeing and speaking to each other once every couple of years, and the feeling that I can’t shake of the other life I would have led if my mom decided to stay on the island.