Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Lazy Summer Days, 100 Years Ago

Pictured here is my grandmother, as she appeared in her late teens, around 1914. The photo was taken most likely in Riverside Park, by a friend who apparently was a gifted photographer. She appears a little hesitant about sitting on a tree limb, gently resting her foot on the crude wooden fence.

Her name was Maria del Carmen Gimenez. She was born in a tiny town in the southernmost province of Spain known as Almeria. Her mother, Carmen, along with her two aunts, had also been known for their good looks. Although living beyond high mountain ranges from the nearest large town (and that was probably small by today's standards!), Carmen and her sisters ordered and sewed up the latest Paris gowns. They were all rather covert two-timers, entertaining eligible batchelors in the parlor while their sisters were instructed to eliminate further visitors by telling them that the hostess was not at home. Suitors nonetheless kept returning, so these young women were either very slick or extraordinarily beautiful!

When Maria del Carmen was still a child, her father died, leaving Carmen with three young children. How she was bold enough to take the children and uproot to New York City remains a puzzle to her descendants. She was delayed at the port of Tangiers for several years en route to America, and there she collected a second husband and had another daughter.

The family found an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Parties were regularly held by Carmen, who wanted to find husbands for her lovely daughters. Maria del Carmen married a handsome,musically-gifted, not very well-to-do man from Spain, Francisco Garrido. Unfortunately, he only lived to see his only child, my mother, reach the age of two. Ironically, I was two years old when my grandmother died, but I still have memories of playing in the snow with her.

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