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“Las Abuelas”… The Women Who Raised Me

BY: Maddie Jomolca

“There is in every womans heart, a spark of heavenly fire which lies dormant in the broad daylight of prosperity, but which kindles up and beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity. ~Washington Irving

Scan_Pic0004Growing up in an ever-expanding household of lively and diverse Cuban immigrants, was no easy undertaking, I tell you! Not only were relatives (and friends of relatives!) flocking and fleeing the precarious Castro regime; but my mother, then in her early-to-mid-twenties, kept “popping us out” into the world faster than you can say; Orville Redenbacher! (Or “Jiffy-Pop”, back then!) Just when I felt I was fully acquainted with my fellow housemates, I would awaken the next morning to be “informally” introduced to yet another character whom mysteriously made his/her way onto one of our fold-up beds, better known to us as; “pin-pan-poom” overnight.

My father, was enrolled in University of Miami’s School of Architecture, and was a student by day and a paid intern-by-night (i.e.: he wasn’t around much!) My mother worked 8-10 hours in an effort to help “put him through school”, as was the typical agenda for wives in those times. In essence they were fast times; times of great progression, and of trials and tribulations usually accompanied by novelty and triumphs for my parents and their friends. Yet in all of the excitement, planning and child-conception, I believe that something very valuable and endearing was lost… communication.

As many of you can imagine and perhaps even relate; amongst the comings-and-goings, many of us, (the offspring) were often, and frequently left in the care of friends… friends of friends… “la esposa del primo, del marido de un amigo de tu tia lejana”… Translation: “the wife of the cousin of the friend of your distant aunt” —- further translation: A PERFECT STRANGER …will care for/babysit you today!

It wasn’t, in fact, until the migration from Cuba and arrival of my maternal grandmother and her two spinster sisters – “las abuelas”, as we inherently called them that I began to feel the natural warmth and maternal protection in the home.

Each of the three was distinctively different from the other two. My grandmother- Ondina or “abuela Ondina” was the youngest of the three, yet, by far the strongest, physically, emotionally. She was a force to reckoned with. She was very transparent, and forthright, often exceedingly so, and loved the Lord with every inch of her being. It was she, in fact, who taught me how to pray and give thanks daily.

She had married my grandfather, who remained in Cuba with his new family, at the young age of eighteen, birthed my mother at nineteen and was divorced four or five years later. Although I heard it in bits and pieces, and never truly brought it up to my mother, for fear of opening up an old wound; rumor has it that he was an alcoholic and subsequently quite abusive with my grandmother. To make matters worse, he carried out an affair with their next-door neighbor, whom he later married, for nearly a year until my grandmother found out. In heated conversations amongst themselves, I also learned that at some point, my grandfather had won the Cuban lottery, and offered absolutely no part of it or any other type of parental assistance to my grandmother to help raise my mother. They would sneer about the day (or several) that my grandmother and my then high-school-junior mother sat at a bus stop, as they routinely did,  as he pulled up to the curb in his brand new Rolls-Royce, glanced to them, and without as much as a flinch rolled away. Needless to say, he was an absent father… a “dead-beat-dad”!


We never met him or spoke to him, as my mother had no relationship with him. Yet, I still recall the day that we received word that he had passed away in Cuba. The pain on my mother’s face revealed an underlying expectation, an unfulfilled hope. It was then that we realized that beneath that casual exterior was a woman, a young girl secretly clinching on to a buried treasure of hopefulness, and the chance that someday her daddy would have come back to tell her that he loved her, and that despite his imprudent ways, she meant everything in the world to him… but instead, the time had lapsed, and her treasure, instead, sank deep to a sea of despair, never to be seen, touched, or realized….Continue reading (Maddie Takes Fl)

Madeleine “Maddie” Jomolca

for: “Maddie Takes SFL”

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