As I have already mentioned, all my aunts were wonderful. But my relationship with Tia Milagros went from childhood to adulthood without a lengthy period of separation. This is the aunt that I had contact with as a child in Cuba and in Milwaukee through my teenage years and young adulthood. She also happened to be married to a very wonderful guy, the one and only Tio Pepe Lino.
In Cuba they lived in Andorra, Tio Pepe Lino’s family farm. It was so beautiful! I loved their house. Tia Cary used to tease her saying that she had so much stuff that she had Tio Pepe Lino walking sideways like a parrot. She did have a lot of pretty things and her house was impeccable even out in the country surrounded by red, red soil.
One day we stopped unannounced on our way to Pica Pica. It was close to lunch time. She put together one of the most memorable meals of my life – white rice, fresh eggs from the farm, pork chunks and fried plantains. She wasn’t one to invite a lot of people for a dinner party, but any time you stopped by, in Cuba as well as in Milwaukee, she would welcome you with open arms and would whip up a feast in no time.
They had one daughter, Clara, who stayed with us in Milwaukee for about two years before her parents were able to join her. My relationship with Clara is very special and deserves an entry of its own. I have the honor of being her daughter Nicole’s godmother.
My memories of Tia Milagros are so many, from her telling me stories when I was a little girl in Cuba, my stopping by their apartment in Milwaukee between classes when I was going to night school, coming with them to Miami on vacation, her taking care of my daughter Elvie during my doctor’s appointments when I was pregnant with my second daughter Veronica. I would talk to her on the phone every day when we lived in Milwaukee and we both ended up moving to Miami.
She actually saved her little sister’s life. Here is the story as I heard it from my mother. Tia Cary had just given my mother and their younger brother (Pepe) a bath. She put them on the bed and told them not to walk barefoot on the floor because they had just had a warm bath. In the meantime Tia Milagros was outside and planned to play a trick on them by throwing some banana peels through the window. She stepped up a ladder to look in and what she saw horrified her. She quickly ran into the house nearly knocking down my grandfather who turned to my grandmother and said – “what’s wrong with that girl?!” She tried to get in the bedroom, but the door would not open – she knocked and knocked asking my mother to help her get the door open. My mother answered – “I can’t because I just took a warm bath” (she would be teased about this later on). Tia Milagros finally was able to get the door open. What she had seen was Tia Berta with her little neck stuck in the footboard of the iron bed and barely breathing. She had tried to climb up and join her siblings on the bed. Her head got stuck and the little stool she was stepping on had gotten away from her feet. Tia Milagros rescued her in the nick of time.
It was so sweet to see her and Tio Pepe holding hands as they grew older. Sadly they had a terrible experience with Hurricane Andrew, having to move from one house to another in the middle of the storm. After it was over and she went back to her home, her house and all her pretty things were destroyed. Her mind was never the same. Perhaps there is a consolation. Although she was very religious she did not like to speak about death, it frightened her so. It may be a blessing she was not aware of her husband’s passing and that she did not have to fear her own.
I truly believe that now her light shines bright in Heaven.
* Tia Milagros was actually born in 1912, but when she and Tia Cary were in their teens they discovered that, in error, their births had not been recorded. On an impulse they decided to take off a year when they registered their respective births. I found this out when we were living in Milwaukee. I thought it was funny and teased her about it. She told “Please don’t let your uncle hear you.” Obviously he didn’t know about it and would be upset – not that he would care about her being a year older, but he would definitely care that it would take her an extra year to collect Social Security.