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My grandmother’s name was Victoria, but we called her by her grandchildren’s (us) given nickname “Mama Toya” (pronounced mamma Toy-ah) We knew that she wasn’t our mother but she was MOM to us. Later my own children, who were also blessed by her love and care when I divorced their dad, would also call her “Mama Toya.” Three generations -- one mom, one pillar, one rock, one anchor.Funny too, now that my daughters are in their forties, with kids of their own, and my son is almost there (39), single dad with a son, they too remember her with the same love and nostalgia that I feel. There will never, ever be another “Mama Toya” like her in the whole wide world -- to us. She is the only grandma I knew. My paternal grandparents had died when we were little and given that my mother would not stay close to “that” family (those were the days), we did not get to know them. So that was our little world.1950. I was enrolled in a Catholic kindergarten. Back then, school began on January 7th, right after little Christmas (Día de los Reyes). One of the most celebrated holidays, and the most celebrated for children. Mexico was/is mostly Catholic and there was no “Santa Claus” in those days and/or we did NOT know because we did not have a television set. We lived a simple and sheltered life.Mother worked, first, in the retail sector, downtown Mexico City . She was keeping books for businesses which were owned mostly by the Jewish community. She felt very comfortable there. She knew that she had come from Jewish roots. Her grandmother was Spanish/Catholic. She and mom´s grandfather married even though he was Jewish (I don’t really know the whole story -- I am still working on that). He was cast out of the family. But together and in love, they went to Veracruz , Mexico in 1896 where he made a living as an Importer/Exporter until his death. I don’t know where or how he died. Grandmother was just eight or nine when he passed.Although mom did not discuss this openly in those days, she knew it. The Jewish community was, to say the least, extremely supportive of a young, divorced mother of two. She loved them and they loved her. They were family; they gave her every opportunity to better herself. After work, she ventured back into school to become an accountant and to acquire a better job to support us.She went to work at Seven-Up bottling company, MABE, a kitchen appliance manufacturer where she was promoted twice in three years. Her last job before retiring the first time was at “Cementos Tolteca,” an English company with branches in Mexico and, I am sure, other parts of the world. There she worked for the next 25 years and became (I was told) the first woman Comptroller of one of the largest companies in Mexico City at the time.Mom was highly respected, chauffeured around, lived well in high society circles and had an incredible business and social life. Her hobbies were reading and writing. She became a celebrated Orator in her later years. I am sure mother could have written her own memoirs. But this is my story and I am sticking to it…I don’t remember much more detail during that time, but it must have been a happy one. Mom went to work, then went to school, came home, read, slept, and studied; then she read, studied, and slept some more. I remember that she slept a lot. On weekends, “Mama Toya” would take us out so mom could sleep and rest. We did not understand why we never saw her but we knew she was there because grandmother would always ask us to be considerate of her because she worked very hard to give us a better life. Her bedroom door was always closed. It was her haven and we were to respect it, not disturb it, or disturb her.She would always have “comida” (dinner) with us every day around 2:00 p.m. This meal is the main meal time in Mexico . It is also when the family not only eats, but everyone shares their day. It can last up to two hours, time permitting. Then she would go back to work and school. We did not see her in the morning as she left before we were woken up to go to school.1952. I was seven. This was another year, a new home, and a new story. We moved! Mother was doing extremely well in her career and was earning “top peso” for her time and age working in Mexico City . This time, we went to a better side of town. With mom’s earnings improving, she could afford a much better place. The area was/is called “Colonial del Valle”. I recently went to the very corner where our house stood and, to my surprise, the house was gone. In its place is an enormous building. I don’t know if the house was destroyed by the earthquake of 1985, or if it was demolished to build commercial property. This house was old but beautiful. It has mystery.That year, mom enrolled us in the German School . One of their Annex schools happened to be across the street which turned out to be perfect for grandmother, who at the time, was severly suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was also enrolled in piano and ballet lessons. Mom had a chauffer from work at her disposal and part of his job was to take us to the different locations that we needed to go after school but before picking her up from work in the evening.One day, I came down with a severe cold. Nobody worried about it except for my ballet teacher who became very concerned when I could not do a simple “demi plié.” Mama Toya, who was my permanent chaperone, told mom that about my ballet teacher’s concern. Mom reacted immediately and took me to our doctor right away. She had acquired a family doctor when my brother, who had an accident per year, had to go to the emergency room from a huge cut around his ankle and had to be stitched eleven times.I will never forget Dr. Franco. He was our family doctor for three decades. Even my second husband and my children were part of the package. He worked at the “Seguro Social,” one of the medical systems for Mexican workers, during the day, and had his private practice at night.Dr. Franco knew it too well. He had seen these symptoms daily for several weeks. He rushed me to one of the only hospitals where he knew they could handle my condition. Time was of the essence. We could not wait. I was having trouble breathing and walking -- and I was certainly clueless of what I was about to experience.12/15/2008
Enjoyed the short history of your family and your own beginnings. Waiting for the next installment to see what ails this talented child! I hope its not that you are stricken with polio! I'll be back for more of your captivating life story. Beautiful writing.