A FAVORITE PICTURE
A favorite picture of mine is of a group of young children celebrating a birthday. The birthday girl is my cousin, Connie Chavez. She is the cute little girl standing behind the cake. I’m not exactly sure of our ages, but I estimate that Connie is 5 years old and that would make me 3 years old. And, I’m guessing that the year was 1937. I love the little children’s table and chairs in the picture and the car on the street in the background.
There are eight children in the picture, all first cousins, all living close to each other in the Boyle Heights area of Los Angeles. Eventually, there would be 25 of us first cousins. We were the first generation of our large Torres Family born in Los Angeles after the family, one and two at a time, immigrated to California in the 1920’s from the family ranch in New Mexico. Twenty-two of us cousins were born in Los Angeles and three of the cousins were born and raised in New Mexico.
The little girl sitting on the chair on the right side of the table is me and the little boy behind me is my brother, Arthur, who is two years older. Some of my cousins have made the comment that from an early age, I was always posing for the camera, and it certainly looks like they might be right.
This picture reminds me of how much fun it was growing up with so many cousins; many of us were very close in age. The children in the photo are Fernando, Sunny, Connie, Gloria, Arthur, Virginia (me), Henry, and Norma, starting with Fernando on top left and going clockwise.
My father died when I was just 8 months old and since there was just my mother, brother and me in our immediate family, it was wonderful to be a part of this large, close family.
During my growing up years, almost every Sunday and on holidays, we would gather at my Uncle Tony’s place in South Pasadena. It was a unique property; it was like a mini ranch in the city. This special place had an old house on about 2 acres surrounded by hills, so it was very secluded. On it was a corral for horses, a barn and chickens and rabbits and a large vegetable garden. There was another small house on the property where my Uncle Julian and Aunt Margaret and their children lived for awhile. My grandmother lived in the main house with my unmarried, sweet Aunt Lucy and my beloved Uncle Tony, when he was in town. Uncle Tony seemed always to be going back and forth from Los Angeles to the family cattle ranch in New Mexico or mining somewhere in the West. We children loved to hear his stories and see his collection of gold in little bottles, authentic arrowheads and other treasures he found on his adventures.
At our gatherings, there was always a lot of food, drink and laughter. Grandma and my aunts and my mother (there were eight sisters and 3 brothers) would gather in the kitchen, preparing food and drinking their beer and always laughing and having a good time. We kids would have the run of the whole place. We’d run up and down the hills and loved swinging on the long rope hung in a tree over a steep incline. (In fact, two of the cousins broke bones at Grandma’s). We kids played games and caught up on the news since we last saw each other. And, we were always looking for the next car coming around the bend on the dirt road. One of my fondest remembrances was one Christmas when “Santa”, played by my Aunt Harriet, and her assistant, my mother, came down one of the hills loaded down with presents for the young children who were gathered at the base of the hill.
It’s been a long time since this birthday photo was taken. Two of the kids in the picture have sadly passed on, including the birthday girl, Connie.
I was honored and happy when my children gave me an 80th birthday celebration last year. It was so special that among the guests, there were 10 of us cousins together again celebrating another happy birthday.
I feel very lucky to be part of this large, fun family.
Virginia Saldana Dickson