Submitted by Virginia Meza

Who are you remembering?
Mi mama Chicha Bartrina

At one of her birthday celebrations in her backyard, with a blue top, white pants and matching clutch designed by her granddaughter Celina.

What are you sharing?
Chicha’s purses

Why did you choose these objects?

No memory of my mom could be without her collection of jewelry and handbags. I learned beauty and elegance from my Mom. She was always impeccably dressed and her love for accessories was obvious.  She loved her jewelry to be bold yet elegant.  Wherever she went, her handbag or clutch had to match her outfit.

Later in life, when her outings were limited from her bedroom to her backyard or her living room for a family get-together she carried a clutch (matching, of course) with her puchos(cigarettes), lighter, a pack of Kleenex and her red lipsticks. 

How would you like her to be remembered?

In some, elegance might seem frivolous and weak, yet my Mom Chicha was an elegant, strong and courageous person.  She rose to the occasion when in her mid fifties she divorced my father. 

After her divorce, Chicha worked hard and played harder until she couldn’t anymore till her late 70s.  She started a landscape company. Then moved on to catering and finally she bloomed as an event coordinator. She was a trailblazer in the industry, coordinating business events to weddings to presidential receptions. Her organizational skills were impeccable, she was a fair boss-lady loved by clients, workers and peers.

During this time, she also traveled through the world. From each one of those adventures she brought a memorable photo — her surprised face when getting on a camel and the animal stood up or her dancing the hula in Hawaii complete with skirt and necklaces.

I learned from her about color and beauty, to enjoy good food with family, love for speedy cars and courage to stand up and leave despite others’ opinions to fulfill my own dreams.

… and my song “Vickita Meza, la mas chiquita, la mas hermosa del Paraguay” — sadly I never recorded it.

What else would you like to share?

Chicha as a child on her first day of school with Angelica.
Stylish cane lunchbox in hand.

Mom painstakingly had gone through all her photos and made a bag for each one of her kids and grandkids as her 2019 Christmas presents. Last March, while visiting her for her birthday, I received mine.

As we were going through my lot, with very little interest on my part, we got to the one on her first day of school and holding hands with Angelica. In her other hand, she’s holding a cane lunchbox. Cracking up she says, Nenita, sabes lo que hay en ese merendero? No es comida. (Baby, do you know what’s in that lunchbox? It’s not food.)

Knowing what came after that, I pretended I did not know. Mis pañales!!!! (my diapers) she responded with a long laugh. We both laughed like two kids, and she proceeded to tell me about Angelica.

It was after she died when we were sharing our Christmas photo bags with the entire family that I remembered what she told me about the lady who’s holding her hand. Angelica was the woman who took care of her — her second Mom. There is a series of these photos but only in this one is she joined by Angelica. Neither I nor anyone in my family had seen this photo before.

Just like my Mom, I also had a second Mom and her name was Severiana—Seve.  Seve was the family cook and my mom’s ally for so many things. The fact that she shared that photo with me is priceless. Deep inside, she understood my love for Seve although at times I might’ve broken her own heart.

Her Favorite Purses
Illustration by Yeesan Loh for Grief Grit Grace