Matilde y el martillo


Mi tío Samuel y mi tía Matilde

My tía Matilde was quite a character. Once when we were visiting in México, we stayed with my abuelita who was blind. All our relatives would always visit abuelita, especially when we came from Chicago. Matilde was still single at the time, so she lived with my abuelita.

While we were there, my mother decided to fix up my abuelita’s place a little. That meant everyone there had to work, vacation or not! We cleaned and painted, and when my mother saw the freshly painted walls she decided to hang up some family pictures. Only one problem. My abuelita didn’t have a hammer. So, my mother sent tía Matilde to get a hammer from a friend’s house.

That sounds easy enough, no? Well, not to a Mexicana. Somehow the simplest errands become complicated quests. Tía Matilde sets of on the simple errand of bringing back a hammer so my mother could hang up some pictures. My aunt should have returned in ten to fifteen minutes tops. Well, a half hour went by and tía Matilde didn’t return.

My mother looked down the street and saw no sign of her sister. An hour passed, then another, and still no sign of tía Matilde. My mother sent me to the friend’s house to see if Matilde ever went there. No, they hadn’t seen her all day. No one really worried about her because in México sometimes people get distracted and forget their original mission, in this case, the quest for the hammer.

Tía Matilde finally returned about three hours later! My abuelita and my mother started interrogating her. “Where did you go? What took you so long?”

Well, she met this certain Samuel. He was standing on the corner playing the guitar and he started serenading her. They went for a walk and before she knew it, three hours had passed. Then, she remembered about the hammer! She returned, finally, but without the hammer!

My abuelita and mother were mad at tía Matilde, but they also couldn’t help laughing at the whole situation. By the way, Matilde and Samuel eventually married and had six children.

Matilde


Mi abuelita y tía Matilde

My tía Matilde came to Chicago as part of the package deal when my abuelita came for eye surgery. Tía Matilde also needed surgery, so she came from México to have surgery on her ears. I’m not sure what exactly was wrong with her ears, but she was otherwise healthy.

My aunt was very young when she came and she liked living in Chicago. She loved listening to pop music on the radio and she bought all the records by her favorite singer, Rick Nelson. She went wild when listening to his music.

What I remember most about my tía Matilde was how she did laundry. We, my parents, my three brothers, my abuelita, my tía Matilde, and me, all lived in a small four-room apartment. We had a washer and dryer in the kitchen next to the sink. When my parents were at work, tía Matilde would do all the laundry in the house, every last handkerchief and sock. She would search everywhere in the apartment for dirty clothes. She found dirty clothes where I would never even think of looking. She just had to make sure that every last item of dirty clothing was clean when she was done doing the laundry. And so, when all the dirty clothes were in the washer, and there was a little room in the tub for more clothes, she would start taking off her clothes right at the washer and start putting them in the washer. She would be standing in the kitchen wearing nothing but her bra and panties, proud of the fact that all the dirty clothes in the house were now washed, obviously oblivious to my presence.

Back then, we always seemed to be either at home or at Cook County Hospital taking either my abuelita or tía Matilde to the doctors there. Anyway, my tía Matilde, who would undress at the washer, was very shy with the doctors when they asked her to disrobe. The day of her surgery, she refused to undress and refused to put on the hospital gown because it had no back to it. I still remember her telling this story when she returned from her surgery. She absolutely refused to undress for the nurses and doctors. She thought she had won her battle, but after the surgery, she woke up in her hospital bed and immediately realized that she was completely naked! Whenever she told this story, she always sounded so shocked that this could have happened to her despite her precautions. She didn’t even remember when or why she lost consciousness. She always wondered who managed to see her naked. She would blush everytime she told the story.  She was truly traumatized by this experience!

She eventually went back to México with my abuelita.