Well, I sure learned a lot about my family on this trip to México. For one, most of the stories that my mother told me about her family weren’t true! While talking to my cousin, I realized that none of the facts matched most of the stories my mother told me when I was a boy. For example, my mother would often tell me how when she was a girl, she wanted a life-like doll for her birthday. One that cried like a real baby, drank a bottle, and wet her diapers, etc. And on my mother’s birthday, my tía Jovita was born. That was the birthday present my mother really wanted! Well, I told my cousin this story and she said that tía Jovita’s birthday is on December 24. So this doesn’t match up to my mother’s birthday on April 27!
Also, everyone in México always knew my mother as Helen. When I was little that’s what my father called her. I always knew her as Helen, too, until she became a U.S. citizen and she changed her legal name to Carmen M. Rodríguez. When my mother died, I was surprised to discover that her real name, based on her birth certificate was María del Carmen Martínez Valdivia. When I was little, my mother always told me how she and her sisters didn’t like their given names, so they changed them to something that they really liked. Mariana Anita became Esthela, María del Carmen became Helen, María became Marusa, Jovita became Rebeca. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her sister’s Laura’s original name. Their brother Alfredo always remained Alfredo. Go figure!
My cousin also told me that her mother told her how my mother used to dress in boy’s clothes and insisted on being called Alejandro. Of course, I’m not sure how true this story is because it turns out my tía also liked to embellish her stories. But if it is true, what a coincidence that I also liked the name so much that I named one of my sons Alejandro!