They call it “The Rocks.” It’s a small section of a town called Altamira, “High View,” in the Dominican Republic, where both my parents grew up. All the houses there are handmade; the roads are completely covered with small rocks and pebbles. My parents were raised in houses made mostly with wood siding and sheet-metal roofing. During a storm you can smell the cooling rainwater that sounds like clapping rocks when it lands on the metal rooftops.
Like many people living in Third World countries, my parents dreamed of moving up in life. They wanted to make big green dollars and live in big white houses in a sunny paradise.
My father’s philosophy for attaining that dream was to go through life a step at a time. You start at the first step, and you go to the second step before you get to the third and so on. In life, we’re always climbing steps. We must move through them one at a time, with balance, to keep from falling down. You get your satisfaction once you make it to the top, not halfway up.
My parents were fortunate enough to get their papers and make their living in Nueva York. After working as a carpet installer for more than 20 years, my father decided to build his dream house on the foundation of the house where he was raised. Before, there were two wooden houses next to each other, like twins, on the street in Altamira. One of the houses was knocked down and rebuilt, showing in sharp contrast how different life can be if you were lucky enough to step onto the golden streets of New York. The people of Altamira call the new house “La Casa Blanca.” It almost looks like a big brother standing next to its sibling.
It must be a good feeling for my father to be living his dream. When kids are growing up, they look up to tall buildings and dream of being up on the top. Then they look back down to see where they started, to their initial foundation. Hopefully they don’t forget their roots when they make it to the top. Forgetting about the long distance traveled to get to where you are today hinders your satisfaction at reaching the end. At every end, there’s a new beginning.
As my father gets closer to retirement, I look at his accomplishment as an inspiration. He started college but couldn’t finish because he couldn’t afford “los cincos centavos” to catch the bus to school, but he still dreamed big—as many of us do. Many try to find quick ways to make it to the top but don’t ever make it. They lose their balance in life, instead of trying to get to the top one step at a time.
Ariel Peralta is a Rutgers-Newark student. His photograph and commentary were produced in Michael Zeugin’s spring 2006 course Nonfiction Writing.