Wednesday, January 27, 2010

TAKING CARE OF PAULITA SILVA SILVA (My Mother)







Last Tuesday, I had to travel urgently back to Chile after hearing that my Mother was in critical condition. I dropped everything, got on the plane and arrived in Santiago at dawn speeding in a taxi to reach her as fast as possible. Those eleven hours+ were the slowest in a long time, (the slowest were when my five year old son Christopher disappeared with my father in law over Chilean skies in 1983 in a private airplane only to be found dead the following morning in a tragic accident.

So here I am thousands of miles away from home, bringing her back to life one day at a time, giving my every hour to her wellbeing. In the brief moments that I can, usually when she is napping and late at night when she and her husband have both fallen asleep, I search for ways to put together a tribute to the beauty of her life, full of adventure in spite of many ups and downs since she was a widow with one child and one on the way at the age of 22. Four more marriages followed, tough times, exciting times in England and Chile, heartache, survival and great successes such as after and in between her separations/divorces she opened up her own Salon de Te in Santiago called La Maison and then became personal Secretary to the Botin Family of Bank of Santander, New York.

Over the following weeks I will be posting snippets of her life as well as a selection of my favorite photographs of her.

Many years ago I submitted a piece about her to a local newspaper which I herewith transcribe:

"Mother, Mami, Mamita, Mamoushka-for I come from a multi-cultural background, is what you might call a "complete woman". She knows how to live. She is not a mother in the strictest sense, but more a person to observe, emulate and learn from since she is a lover of life. I interpret her influence on me to the fact that she does everything with LOVE which has rubbed off on me. Have fun in life, be daring, adhere to your uniqueness and treat yourself and others with respect seems to be her motto. I am certain she learned this from her own mother, who, living alone towards the end of her life, insisted on setting the table for herself just as if more people were expected.

By doing things with love, my mother does everything well, at least in my eyes, because it is all about the wonderful energy she puts into the processes. She dresses well (it's better to have three or four good outfits per season than a closet full of mismatches), accessorizing each outfit which she believes is the key to elegance, she cooks well (sticking to two excellent cookbooks she trusts unconditionally : The Larousse Gastronomique and La Buena Mesa), she decorates well, budgets well, knows how to add details to everyday living and knows how to select her friends and acquaintances well. She has also managed to travel the world without every having learned how to drive a car. She even did a cross country balloon ride on anthony smith's famous Jumbo.

Growing up I was surrounded by her nuances, it was never boring around her. She had this discipline about how to manage the hours in the day, and never slacked unless she was seriously ill, which was rare. Looking back, I remember so many things that have been an example to me over the years. One of the most endearing is that at the end of the day, after taking care of the home, she would look forward to my stepfather coming home and get pretty for him. Then they would sit and have their cocktails (when cocktails were fashionable) and talk about all the odds and ends of their days.

She cooked the most memorable three course meals I have ever sat down at a table for. My friends, who still call me to this day for one of her recipes can avow to that. Desserts were the jewels of meals always dripping with caramelized sugar, exotic fruits or pricked with slivvered almonds. I still recall the taste of my first Paula Cantaloupe & Prawn Salad, slightly spicey but absolute delish. Conversations followed over the last sips of wine or, in colder seasons, the demitasse of coffee, a custom still prevalent in Europe and South America.

Herdecorating too, with scarce means, was unique and unforgettable. Mummy would hunt for unusual antiques in Portobello Market in London, make her own Brass Rubbings and spruce up inherited pieces. Our house was always warm and cosy but with a flair.
And then there was her choice of friends and acquaintances, people like and unlike ourselves, from all walks of life, whom she knew we would learn from; a hairdresser, a maid, a gardener, the seamstress, the launderess we re all important to us. Through them she followed adventure. Like the time she accepted to fly across the English countryside in a balloon race with a downstairs neighbor or begging my father to take her with her when he was assigned to cover a story behind the Iron Curtain visiting Russia in sub-zero temperatures.

In Chile she rubbed elbows with all the greats; painters such as Mario Toral and Nemesio Antunez, poets like Pablo Neruda and Tiago De Mehlo, even President Allende and his wife Hortensia were frequent visitors to our beach house. In England I recall people such as Arnold Toynbee, Richard Gott, Hugh Thomas, Anthony Sampson. And one sudden day she was invited to tea WITH NONE ELSE THAN QUEEN ELIZABETH. That's my Mother for you.
Since I am now an adult, my mother has turned more into a friend, an unconditional friend and since she is always one step ahead, maybe even ten steps ahead of me on the road of experience, her words of advice and encouragement always seep deep into me. Evn if they don't make sense today, they will always do in the end.

Always be Cool, Calm and Collected.

1 comment:

mystele said...

thinking of you...take heart, lovely lady.