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My First Love

by Jeniffer Tejada

They say a daughter’s first love is her father. Despite all his failings, I wholeheartedly affirm, there’s no other man I would’ve chosen to be mi papi.

I love you, mi viejo.


My dad has been mi héroe since I can remember.

All of my firsts were with papi, like my first bike ride in Dyckman where he shouted “tu puede cariño,.” Even though shortly after I fell, but felt safe the moment he came running right behind me.

Then there was the first time hitting my first baseball in that same park and sitting on the church steps sharing a pint of vanilla Häagen-Daz ice cream.

I remember the first time he taught me to dance to Tego Calderon because “tu vas a saber a bailar todo.” I remember my first drink in DR on my 14th birthday; he gave me some rum and said, “si tu vas a beber, tu primer trago te lo voy a dar yo.”

His love of fashion and being well-dressed rubbed off on me. He bought me my first pairs of Iversons and would splurge on shopping sprees every season. The first time I asked to pick my clothes, he was notably upset because, at that point, he realized his little girl wasn’t so little anymore, and he couldn’t keep dressing me as a boy.

I recall falling asleep while he worked his “chiripa;” the distinct smell of oil and dust brings me back to the times when it was just him and I against the world. Later, I would get three little sisters; he’s always encouraging us to remain close because family is all we have now.

I remember how I hated disappointing him—his voice would go higher, and a stern look would spread across his face. After his lecturing and yelling, he would come to hug me and tell me he loved me.

As a parent to a child—a boy who looks identical to my dad and even shares the same horoscope—I understand how difficult it is to grow as a person, figure yourself out, and still be a compassionate parent to your child. I’m grateful and appreciative for his sacrifice—moving to a new country, learning a new language, and leaving your home and family behind to start a new life for your child. He has taught us how to be humble, work hard, and the strength it takes to keep moving forward despite our circumstances.

My father—a man known for his kindness and compassion—would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it because his humanity defines him. He is why I instill the same qualities in my son.

My dad is and always will be my shoulder to cry on, my person to get into heated debates over history and socialism, my encourager, my reality check, and my safe space.

When I was younger, I didn’t comprehend the importance of saying “cion papi,” nor did I care. As an adult, I recognize these words honor our culture and our parents— sacrifices made provide us with a better future—it’s recognizing papi’s struggles, triumphs, and my respect for him.

 

Jenifferis a single mother with a passion for cooking, writing, and criminal justice. She is currently pursuing her BA in Law from the University of Arizona. Jenifer is an avid warrior for justice reform, building community amongst POC, all while living in Brooklyn, NY, and raising her superhero son. She has had guest appearances on several podcasts and continues to build her portfolio. Her father, son, and her love baseball and root for the Yankees!

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