I’m one of the lucky ones. Yep, for thirty years I had two grandmothers to love and spoil me. They were present in my life in completely different ways and have yet both shaped me beyond measure. Who are they? They’re the best, strongest, most resilient women I know. My mom and aunts talk about the days when they were raising us and how times have changed, but these two women really saw it dark. Both were born and raised in Cuba, and both left with three children during the revolution with nothing but the clothes on their back. My maternal grandmother, Marta (Abuela) left with her family to Spain. My paternal grandmother, Ana (Bita) came to Miami and then settled in Honduras. They didn’t meet until their children fell in love and decided to start a life together, so it’s crazy to think that two strangers grew up to be grandmothers to the same three kids–but here we are.
Abuela, 87 years young. Born in Cuba on March 27th 1933.
Abuela is my mom’s mom, her constant companion and therefore present in almost every single day of my life. She helped raise us and is like a second mother to me and my brothers. Everyone I meet absolutely loves her because she’s hilarious, gentle and motherly. She taught me how to cook and since I could remember would tell me that I was destined to marry a prince. She always reminded me of how tacky she thought I was going to be when I was little because I always said I wanted a pink house and pink car. Sometimes, when she says a story or joke she finds hilarious, she tries really hard to get through it without laughing but it’s impossible. Sometimes, while she tries to do this, she runs out of breath and gasps for air. It’s both hilarious and terrifying. Abuela is the one that would take our teeth out when they were loose and the only person I felt safe with in the pool or ocean because she would never put me under water without permission. She was my next door neighbor for 4 years and we were both sad when I moved. She was sad because I wouldn’t get to see her every day. I was sad because I was moving in with my parents. Unfortunately, this birthday she is celebrating it almost completely alone because of the circumstances, but she is still so happy and proud to be another year older. She is such a positive person and it shows in everything that she does. There is no one quite like Abuela.
Bita, would have been 90 years old. Born in Cuba on March 29, 1930.
Bita is my dad’s mom and the real matriarch of the Lamas family. She singlehandedly made sure we were all raised as close as possible and kept our family united through thick and thin. She was tough as nails and had the best one liners that could shut anybody up. Her life was her family and we felt it then and still feel it now. I swear, it’s been almost ten months since I’ve seen her, and if I just close my eyes I can hear her saying something, anything. When I was growing up she split her time between Miami and Honduras, so while I didn’t see her as often as Abuela, our relationship completely shifted as I got older. She was someone I would visit weekly and talk to daily. She was literally obsessed with Santi and even loved the fact that he refused to call her Bita, only Ana. When she died, I feel like a piece of me died too. I don’t really talk about it a lot because it still feels fresh and like it happened yesterday. She passed away peacefully in her home surrounded by her three children, four granddaughters, my mom and uncle Freddy. It’s exactly what she wanted and although it was so tough to live through, I am so happy we were there for her. I can’t believe she isn’t here to celebrate her birthday with a delicious cake from La Rosa Bakery (“con merengue de verdad”). I miss her so much every day and it breaks my heart that the next time I see her I’ll probably be her age! But, I’m one of the lucky ones. I got to live the first thirty years with her in my life and I’ll be grateful for that forever. Bita was truly the OG.
Help me in wishing these women the happiest birthday ever. While I can’t be with either of them today, I know that Abuela is happy and safe at home, and Bita is looking down on me thinking “wow, my great-grandkids are gorgeous.”