We didn’t travel to many places when I was growing up. In fact, the first time ever I got on a plane I was 18 years old and went to visit my mother who was living in Aruba. However, we did visit my grandmother’s birth town of San Cristobal often, at least 4 to 5 times a year and even though the ritual was pretty much the same every time, the memories of this particular trip in 1985, the trip of a lifetime, that happened when I was 8 years old I have never forgotten.
Mamá had been gathering our old clothes and shoes for a few weeks as she usually did before going to Cambita, the village where she was born. Although we were poor, we were fortunate to have some connections, like my aunt who lived in Puerto Rico and had 3 girls whose clothes we always inherited. My tía and her husband had a business in PR and had become an upper-middle class woman, but she never forgot her humble beginnings and was known for helping everyone she knew, including us.
Because we will always get clothes from my aunt and my mother worked at a clothing store we were pretty set in that department. That’s why mamá will collect everything that didn’t fit us to take to younger kids in Cambita (third, fourth and fifth cousins), and in turn she will come back to Santo Domingo with her bags full of víveres and vegetables that her relatives will get from the trees and give to her.
We were all poor, you see, but we all had an abundance of something and the exchange of goods was just a natural thing. Before going on the trip of a lifetime, all I remember from the times we would go there was the glow of happiness on mamá’s face as she took out the pieces of clothing and gave to each child or adult that it was meant for. I felt we were super stars of some sort, everyone was so happy and excited to see us, and mamá was even more excited to be able to do that.
The reason I think that his was the trip of a lifetime, is because that summer I enjoyed myself so much that I remember every detail of that trip. I was treated like a princess by my cousins and I loved being there where there were many kids to play with. I also think that during that visit is when I truly grasped what gratitude is and how it spreads so much joy both for the giving person and for the one receiving.
“Las manos que dan esperan,” mamá used to say and I couldn’t get that saying ‘the giving hands await’. I remember thinking it was a bad way of giving, like you are expecting something in return. Eventually I fully understood what it means, and in retrospect, I see why mamá was such a joyful giver. When you give your hands are open and they are bound to receive, not necessarily from the recipient of your gift.
Getting Ready for The Trip of A Lifetime
When the time came for the trip of a lifetime we were ready with three big rice sacks and I couldn’t be more excited. San Cristóbal is the province that is closest to Santo Domingo, but back then the roads weren’t great and we had to take public transportation. For me, as a kid, it was a total adventure. I can only assume that it was an ordeal for mamá to travel with the sacks of clothes and two kids via public transportation.
Our journey on the trip of a lifetime started near our house; mamá would ask some teenager to help her bringing the sacks up hill from our house to the main road where we’d take the first bus. The bus driver would always complain that mamá had way too many bags, because besides the sacks of clothes and the 2 kids, she also had a bag with our clothes and stuff we would need during the days we’d stay there.
She was a business woman and she’d convince the driver not only to take her but not to charge her for each bag. From that bus, we would have to get off at the corner of Maximo Gómez street and Nicolás de Ovando street, and take a second bus to the corner of Avenida Duarte and Eusebio Manzueta street, where the stop for the buses headed to San Cristóbal were. Each time, she enter in negotiation with the bus driver to agree on a fee that suited her.
When we arrived there it was all excitement, greetings and giggles. We always stayed at my aunt Daisy’s house. She is a pretty amazing woman, mothered 20 children and has always have a radiant smile, her natural hair in fancy dos and a full size body that was made to carry and cuddle children.
Tía Daisy will always tell me she was going to bite me, and sometimes she did. The thrill, however, was the fact that during the days of our stay, she will tell me, I haven’t bitten you yet, you cannot go without a little bite. That scared me a little, but it was more of a dare game, I will run from her and sneak from rooms when I saw her. Almost like playing hide and seek, kept my adrenaline going.
This time we got to go to the river, play with the cousins, my sister got in trouble for taking part in local chisme that one of my teenage cousins was in. To us it was so amusing, to learn the stuff that it was said in el campo; different words and a slower-pace world.
We ran free, played endlessly, enjoyed natured and the sense of being para of a larger family, a community that was there for us, even if it wasn’t on a day-to-day basis. This is the most memorable thing that happened to me that year, it was, without a doubt, the trip of a lifetime.
There are so many things we did and experienced on that trip that I could write many posts about it. What I want to capture here, and the main reason I think this was the trip of a lifetime is because it summarizes all of my childhood trips and the endless memories we created there.
Do you have a favorite childhood trip memory?