Isabel Maria Irene Dalmau Pichardo

One could say that my mother has been a housewife all her life and raised 5 children. And you would be correct. But, my mother was way more than that. She raised 5 children, kept a huge house going with a lot of servants, and did it all mostly on her own. My father was always gone because of his profession and later extraordinary circumstances. In the meantime, everything ran smoothly because of my mother. She cleaned, gardened, decorated, took us to school and picked us up, did all the shopping, paid all the bills, sewed, helped us with homework, and when our house needed painting, she painted it. When a lamp broke, she fixed it. Even though my father was a great handy man and an excellent carpenter, my mother didn’t wait for my father to fix things. She was hands on. From her I learned to get up in a ladder with a bucket of paint and just do it. If you didn’t like it, paint it another color next day. Also, my father’s taste was usually not up to her clean modern lines. 🙂

When we came back from Miami, after the Civil War, we had lost everything. We had hardly any furniture, everything was old and beat up. So, my mother got her spray paints and started to make it all look better. The fridge was old and rusty, but we couldn’t afford a new one. So, she had me paint the fridge as a pop art piece. It was a big black and white face in the Pop style. Then we painted big, black polka dots all over the kitchen wall. We painted all the cabinets black with bright red pulls. She also added many bright red accents to the kitchen. Then she had the idea to get the table top of our old table that had lost the legs and turn it into a painting. I painted a reproduction of a Frans Kline painting. It was the finishing touch.

My mother’s garden was another work of art. All the plants were started from cuttings and seeds. And what an amazing garden it was. We had breadfruit, orange, grapefruit, nispero (sapodilla), guanabana (soursop), cashew, guayaba (guava), lemon, plantain, coconuts, banana, lots of avocados and many more fruit trees. They were all surrounded by beautiful ornamental plants and herbs. There were almost every species of bougainvillea and hibiscus that existed in the island, as well as every fern, Alelí (frangipani), palm, framboyan (Royal Poinciana) hibiscus, bougainvillea, orchids, and many exotic tropical plants.

Nothing stopped my mother from making our house look great even if we didn’t have money. So I learned an important lesson. You might be poor and live in a hut, but it will be the nicest hut in the neighborhood with the nicest garden to match.

Mami’s Family Tree