The Family JewelsFriday, March 15, 2013
From the time that I can remember anything, my grandmother would take out a heavy but small metal box. When she opened it, I could see inside boxes of jewels. There were diamonds, opals, turquoises and magnificent jades and pearls.
Where had they come from? The story that my mother told me is that her father, Don Tirso de Irureta Goyena had often visited Paris either when he was courting or as soon as he had married Dolores Reyes. In Paris he had had the jewels custom made, especially for his Lolita (the affectionate name in Spanish for all women named María de los Dolores).
Often the reason for opening the box (particularly in our latter years in Buenos Aires in the early 50s) was for either the selection of a few jewels to wear to a party or for the repair or removal of a stone from a necklace or brooch at the joyero (the jeweller). My grandmother would laugh every time he mentioned the jeweller’s name. He was Hungarian and his surname was Verga which in Spanish means penis. The removal of the stone often had to do with the impending divorce of either my aunt or uncle. The stones were pawned to pay off lawyers.
|Don Tirso de Irureta Goyena|
It is only in the last few days (particularly in my insomniac nights) that I have given further thought on that heart of diamonds.
I know that my grandmother had a friend, a very lovely woman called Susana Roxas. All my grandmother told me was that she was a bailarina (dancer). If you consider that in turn-of-the-century Manila any woman who wanted to sing in opera, dance or act was considered of ill-repute you can imagine that Ms Roxas was daring for her time. My abuelita(had abandoned her desire to be an opera singer, she had a beautiful coloratura voic.) told me that in one of Don Tirso’s trips on board the Kyoto Maru to Europe, by coincidence Ms Roxas had been heading to Paris I am beginning to wonder if all those jewels that my grandfather showered on my grandmother may not have been gifts to ameliorate guilt.
I will never know.
Is this picture, startling in its unidentified manner (no writing in a family album that is all but complete in names) that of the beautiful Susana Roxas? I will never know, either. But it is exciting to speculate.