Inesita & LibertySaturday, October 12, 2013
I may have been around 8 and it was my birthday, it was August 31 and my mother had organized one of those birthdays that I hated then and have hated since. It is because of those birthday parties that I have never cared for cakes. I remember this birthday party because in a particular l-shaped corner of the path leading from the street, through the long garden into our house I spotted a beautiful young woman. I had no real idea of who she was except that my mother said something like, “Greet your godmother and cousin Inesita, won’t you Alex?” That exact moment is the first time that I remember Inesita coming into my life.
When I returned to Buenos Aires in 1964 to do my obligatory military service I stayed at her big house for a few months. She had widowed a few years before and she and her three sons and one daughter had married a wealthy widower, of German extraction, with four daughters. They had a house in the fashionable section of the city called Belgrano R on Sucre Street.
I remember the first day I walked into that house. I rang the door bell and I spied a lovely young girl peeking at me from above. She was Inesita’s teenage daughter Marinés. I felt awkward in my ill-fitting winter blues. I was ushered in and taken immediately to dinner. The table was one of those Hollywood film types of tables as long as an aircraft carrier. Consider that Inesita and her husband Dolfi had between them 8 children and most of them were old enough to have girl friends or boy friends. Plus there was a seat for my gorgeous red-haired first cousin Elizabeth Blew.
I sat down and everybody at the table stared in my direction. It was only later that I found out that I had passed the test of manners and that somehow my table manners were adequate!
Since those days Inesita has been in my heart my favourite relative for her warmth, poise and best of all for an elegance second to none.
Time has been kind to her. She is now 90 and I attended her celebratory Mass (she was blessed by the Bishop of San Isidro) and her party at the Club Náutico San Isidro where she was surrounded by over 100 relatives and friends.
But my best memory of my visit with her in Buenos Aires is of two days. In one we sat comfortably in her den to listen to some talking books I brought for her from Vancouver. As healthy as she is, she is blind in one eye and sees poorly with the other. Spoken books are her ticket for pleasure. There were two books that she particularly appreciated. One featured short stories by Agatha Christie and in particular The Last Séance read by Christopher Lee. Then we listened, for over an hour a memoir by Diane Keaton (and read by her!) Then Again. We listened to these books after a nice lunch at a table (not too large) with beautiful china.
The other day I invited Inesita to have a pizza at Pizzería Burgio on Cabildo near Juramento. She told me she had never ever been in a pizzeria in all her life and that she was looking forward to it. We took a cab. Our driver was an Italian. It didn’t take long before he and I found out we were fans of Andrea Camilleri’s Montalbano and that we had seen the whole Italian series based on Camilleri’s novels. Our driver told us that he had eaten pizza at Burgio and was impressed that we knew of it. Inesita enjoyed her pizza, she had several slices and an orange Fanta. She commented she liked the crispy under crust of the thinnish (but not too thin) Burgio pizza.
From Burgio we decided to walk to the corner of Juaramento and Cabildo (about five blocks) to have ice cream at Freddo’s which is in the La Redonda complex. This church is my favourite Buenos Aires church, the one that I used to go as a boy and it also happens to be the one where my godmother goes for Sunday Mass. I was shocked to find out that because of her age she sometimes attends TV Mass and that somehow the Catholic Church accepts this a way of fulfilling one’s sacred duty.
From our ice-cream we walked 8 more blocks (and she is 90 and elegantly walks like a woman of 40) past her apartment to one of my favourite spots in Buenos Aires. In a little known area of the park that is called Barrancas de Belgrano, there is a miniature reproduction of the Statue of Liberty. I took some snaps of Inesita and we then retired to her apartment for tea.
Tea with the cousins
Tea with the cousins