For seven years of my life, I lived in a New York borough called Queens. When I left, I was certain I had packed everything, but it turned out I had not. I forgot something very important, something money cannot buy - my spirit. As I ventured to the new world of suburban Long Island, I began to reminisce about my great childhood in Queens, what I had learned, and the impression that the place left on me.
One of the biggest bonuses of living in Queens was its diversity and the variety of cultures from around the world that give the chance to meet people from all walks of life. I jumped right into that cultural salad bowl. It was there that I learned to speak Spanish. Listening to classmates, their family, store owners and neighbors speak Spanish, I began trying to interpret what was said. In the long run, my investigations helped me achieve good grades in Spanish at school.
Then there's food. I still remember my first gyro. I was at a restaurant in Kew Gardens when I pointed to a huge revolving slab of meat and told the waitress, "I'll have that." I took a bite of the Greek delicacy and it was delicious. Ever since, I need my weekly gyro.
I had many good friends in Queens who introduced me to the new music of rhythm and blues, as well as reggae. I was amazed by it all. The beat was phenomenal and sounded like nothing I had ever heard with its strong sound and melodic tone. Along with the music came dancing. Friends showed me how to dance, but the result was mediocre at best. I don't think there is a name for my style - maybe "embarrassing." At least I made others laugh, which made me (and still makes me) happiest. I still listen to rhythm and blues and reggae. My dancing, however, has not improved.
In Queens, basketball was very popular. I was no Michael Jordan, but I had my moments. I was a great spectator, though. I would go down to Braddock Park and watch the games. I was so impressed by the athletic ability of players that I began watching more games (both on TV and live) and working on my own ability. I loved playing basketball for fun, and still do.
New York is the city that never sleeps, but Queens is a pretty restless place on its own. No matter the time, someone will be on his or her porch. It is very comforting to know that there is always someone around to talk to, someone to relax with, and someone to help. I recall one block party when I was about seven years old. The party must have lasted until midnight. I was with a group of friends and some of the older boys were setting off fireworks while we played baseball and volleyball and ate hot dogs and hamburgers. As one of the fireworks went off, I began to see Queens as not just a place, but a spark. This spark started my life, comforting me and giving me a homey feeling.
As I look through my photo albums, I cannot help but feel like a child again. Queens may just be a dot on the globe, but to me it is one of the greatest places on Earth. Queens is where my knowledge of life itself expanded. Queens gave my life purpose, one which I will carry into the future.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.