Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sweet Tita, Happy Birthday!

Mr.Tennis' Panamanian grandmother would be celebrating her 100th birthday today.  I first met her in 1979 when I took a summer trip to Panama with Mr. T to meet his family.  Her welcoming warmth just eminated from her.  Although we had a language barrier, we managed to communicate our mutual admiration.

Tita, enjoying the "fresca" atmosphere of camping in the keys in 1982.

Tita and her "little" grandson, Mr. Tennis in July 1979 when I first met this wonderful woman.

Mr. T and Tita Christmas  1998 in El Valle.  This was the last time we visited with Tita and it was such a wonderful, relaxing Christmas.   

To Mr. Tennis and his brothers, she was Abuela, but to the great-grandchildren that eventually came along, she was "Tita".  Our Neice Chelsea was the first to call her this easier-to-pronounce name, and from then on she reigned as Tita.

College graduation March 1981

When I was pregnant with The Writer I took a class in conversational Spanish so I could communicate with Tita and Mr. T's other spanish-speaking relatives.  I remember sitting in that class battling all-day nausea, nibbling on crackers and learning how to say "pregnant" in Spanish.  I don't remember the word now, but I retained enough of the basics to carry on very basic conversations which were heavily dependent on hand gestures.

I had no bigger fan than Tita when it came to my Spanish.  You would have thought I was spouting the finest poetry from her reactions.  Her sweet smile and generous hugs were a welcome reward for trying to talk about the pleasant weather.  Who knows what I was really saying?

                                                 Tita, me and Gramps before graduation 1981

Tita was determined that Mr. Tennis and I start a family rather soon after getting married.  We wanted to wait a few years so we could get on our feet financially.  This did not deter Tita from dropping hints, or should I say baby shirts by our house every so often.  Our first Christmas after we got married I received a hand-knitted pair of baby booties from the ever-optimistic Tita.

The Writer and Tita circa 1987
Shortly after one of her baby shirt drops I announced that I was pregnant and Tita had a knowing smile on her face.  She knew those shirts would do the trick eventually.

Tita was in Orlando for both of our children's births.  She loved them both instantly and thought they were the most brilliant children on the face of the earth.  She would cup their faces in her hands and tell them wonderful things about themselves in Spanish.  She used to sing a song to them when they were very small that I still remember:"  Un barquita, chiquitito..."  They loved to sing that with her.

At the Market in El Valle 1998. The Writer, Orlando Grandma,
The Maven, Me and Tita                          

This diminutive lady was not a wilting flower.  Her size did not reflect the great inner strength she possessed.  I've witnessed her three, over 6 feet tall, grandsons snap-to-it when she gave the word.  And that's all it usually took, a word.  After all she had grown up and lived in the lovely countryside of Panama where she made her home with her husband, Abuelo.  They were cattle ranchers and Tita was the village teacher.  Her rough and tough husband would tend to the cattle ranch and Tita would take care of things at home including running the school.  I saw her no-nonsense, this is how it's done, spirit during that first visit in 1979.  I had the pleasure of having a typical ranch-style breakfast with eggs, steak (from the ranch) and a tortilla I watched her make by hand in her backyard.  Delicious!  Not to mention the stories Mr. T has told me, in particular the one about going to the larger neighboring town to get a chicken for Tita.  He rode the little "Chiva" bus with the chicken on his lap and when he returned and handed the bird to Tita, she said "gracias" and then cracked it's neck.  Dinner was served shortly afterwards.

She made sure her three children grew up educated and eventually sent them to boarding schools and universities in the US.  All three grew up to be intelligent, responsible adults with beautiful families.  Orlando Grandma is the oldest, then Vicki, who lives in Iowa with her husband Jacques and the youngest is Chalon, who left us a couple of years ago.  Between them they have 8 children, Orlando Grandma has 6 grandchildren, Vicki and Jacques have 9(!) grandchildren (all girls from their three boys) and Orlando G-ma has two beautiful great-grandchildren.  This is quite a legacy Tita has left behind.     

Chalon, Tita, Orlando Grandma and Vicki. Tita and her children enjoying her 90th birthday celebration in Panama.


                                                      At the Lake in St. Cloud, FL. Circa 1961. Tita, Tony,
Orlando Grandma, Chalon, Grandma Rose, Mr. T on Uncle Larry's lap.

There are so many more things that could be said about this great lady who was such an influence on our family.  She had such deep faith and always kept a rosary close at hand and that in itself was inspirational.  It's comforting to know that our Tita is at peace joined by loved ones and looking down on her family with pride and love.

Uncle Larry, Gramps, Tita and Abuelo, not sure of the year.


Orlando Grandma said...

Ann, you captured the escence of what Tita was all about in your wonderful blog. good pictures and great writing. Abuelita who was a writer in prose and verse would be very proud , of that grandaugher she loved and admired so much. In her name and from the bottom of my heart, MUCHAS GRACIAS.

Alan said...

I have so many fond memories of Tita. Through your words and pictures I was able to enjoy those fond memories once again. Well done Boston Lady.