Posted on May 29 2018
My blogs are always related to my handbags, this one will be more like a dedication to my dearest aunt (“tieta” in Catalan) and how my background is related to what I do now, leather handbags.
This week, I had to fly to Spain to attend a funeral. Most of the people that saw me at the funeral were surprised at first and asked me why I came, I only had to answer, “this was la tieta Pili” and then they just gave me a big hug. La tieta Pili was my mom’s sister. She was my aunt, my God Mother, and at the same time, she was my second mom, as my brother, sisters and I called her.
Coming from a Spanish/Catalan family, it was not unusual to have the grandparents living in the same house about 40 years ago. In my house there was quite a few people living with us as I was growing up. My parents, my 3 siblings and I, my grandmother and my aunt (from my mother’s side). My other grandparents would come on the major holidays as well.
Celebration my brothers 8th birthday, from the left Tieta Pili, my sister Rosa, my brother and my grandmother holding me.
After my maternal grandmother passed away in 1982, tieta Pili moved out of the house and got her own apartment, but even then, she would come and spend the weekends with us.
She was our babysitter, our companion on our international sports trips, the one that show us to believe in God, the one that told us the funny stories that she would make up only for us.
My aunt never found her blue prince, as she used to say to us. Instead, she settled for us. We were everything she had in the world. We were the apple of her eyes. She would buy us anything we needed, and she was the one that would buy us what my mom would not let us. She would always say “don’t tell your mom I got you that”, but of course my mom was quite smart, and she would always find out and complain about it, but tieta Pili’s response, was “leave me alone, I buy them what I want”.
Tieta Pili started working at a leather tanner called “Curtidos Clols” in Valls when she was only 14 years old. This was 1946. She started working to support her family and sister (my mom). She never complained, I don’t remember her ever getting sick besides a few colds, but she never missed work. She always thanked good for all she had, health and us. She was as strong as any man, sometimes I think even more. She worked 12 hour shifts every single day. She got the appreciation and respect of any man and woman that went through that tanner, because most of the people did not last long to continue working there; she was an exception. She worked at the tanner 51 years. She was the confidant of all workers. Everybody trusted her. There were times that we would go and pick her up after school to walk home together. There was about 4 km/2.485 miles from the tanner to our house. She walked that same path 4 times a day. She did not like to take the bus and did not like anybody to drive her. She kept insisting she had to walk.
Tieta Pili was the best aunt we could ever have: kind, sweet, funny, great story maker and teller, smart, brave, beautiful and stubborn and determined too. She had to go through the Spanish Civil war, she had to bare the loss of a sister barely born, the loss of her brother at 8 years old. Then her parents bought her a puppy to try to make her feel better and she lost it too. She never forgot that feeling of losing her brother and her puppy, because she never wanted a puppy ever again. She almost lost my mother twice, as my mom got typhus first and then pneumonia at 9 years old.
But when tieta Pili got dementia, my mom, 72 years old, took her back to the house and took complete care of her until last November when tieta Pili got pneumonia. After that, my mom 77, could not see herself handling the responsibilities of caring for her any longer and put her in an elderly home in our home town.
The last time I saw tieta Pili, last summer, she barely recognized me, she did not know who my kids where or who was my husband. She did say my name a couple times all summer, but that was it. She was lost. I said good bye to her while she was sleeping because I didn’t want to wake her up. She looked like my grandmother, and tears rolled my eyes from thinking I might not see her again.
She passed away on Saturday, May 19, 2018 at the elderly home at the age of 86. She was buried on Monday, May 21 next to her mom, my grandmother.
So this week, I went to see where she worked her long life. The tanner has been closed since the day she retired over 20 years ago. It seemed to me it has been abandoned much longer. And I am not sure if it was my mind tricking me or not, but I could smell leather in the air. Memories came to me as my sisters and I were getting through the door as little girls, going up the stairs to see her, and tieta Pili smiling and showing us proudly what she was doing, tanning the leathers, and moving the heavy loads around.
My heart and memories will never forget her. I will always keep her in my heart and I know she will always be with me just like my grandmother is.
With all my love, rest in peace tieta.