We still arrived back at the house in time to join Carmen for a breakfast of papaya and mango before anyone arrived. That was the best part, having some one-on-one time with her. She has informed opinions about everything, total recall, and a forceful personality. Her body is weak. She has lost more weight. But her spirit is triple anyone else’s.
Eventually, many of her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren arrived, about 35 family members, but she especially appreciated us who came to her birthday party from so far away who weren’t her direct descendants.
During the party, I got busy verifying and updating the family tree with multiple members of the family, and added a lot of details from Meyer Beracha Motola and Becky Treves Motola whom I hadn’t met before. Judith Contente Motola de Motola and her husband Gaston Motola Covarrubias were especially helpful in giving me information on both lines, as were Dorita Motola de Beracha, her daughter Rosy Beracha de Levy, and her husband, my first cousin, Santiago Levy Motola. And of course, Raquel Treves Motola de Treizman took the time to review the entire tree, adjust details, and determine which of the ancestors are alive or deceased. Only one other 5th generation descendant remains, a Victoria Avayou, who is also 95.
I shared the Sefardic book with Carmen , Raquel, Dorita, and Santiago, and they confirmed that the picture of my father with his parents was probably at his sister Dora’s wedding. I had never seen a photo of my grandfather Jose Motola and grandmother Esther Behar before his death, and they looked so happy. She was indeed heavy, wide faced and happy, not the skinny and gaunt widow I knew.
The food and company were great, but as usual, I really struggled to eat without a lot of mucous and by the time I was finished with this buffet, and every meal before and after, I had an embarrassing pile of napkins accumulated from constantly blowing my nose. I sat across from Carmen, and enjoyed seeing her daughters and granddaughters serve her, plying her to try a little bit of this specialty or that specialty that they had prepared. What she couldn’t eat then, she instructed her attendants to save for her dinner. Everything was great, but I found that I had difficulty eating tortillas, and had to bypass the blue corn sopes. But the tinga, guacamole, rice, mole, fideos, and everything else they brought was wonderful homemade food. And the desserts of devil’s food cake, rice pudding, and other cake were fabulous.
While I was kept busy much of the time, Susie and Beto played backgammon, as did others, and I also got to play a little. And they mixed and mingled as numerous members took interest in them and practiced their English. Becky’s 19 year old bearded son, Rafa, who spoke fluent English without an accent after going to school in New England, looked much older. Susie looked much younger, and they were surprised at each other’s ages. We all visited with some of the family after the meal in the living room, and felt totally included. I will miss this family. Raquel and her sisters, Sarah and Becky, Laila, their sons and daughters, Gaston and Judith and their darling daughters, Karen and Sharon.