Earlier in the week, the Post and Courier posted this article, highlighted by Cigar Mike here. While I liked the piece overall, despite some differences, it reminded me of the family photo collection. My parents in Cuba were poor as church mice, living in genteel poverty. They lived with my grandparents, who were middle class, because Dad had difficulty finding a decent job, despite a herculean willingness to work and get ahead. It was an opportunity this country ultimately gave him.
Yet so many of their pictures show them enjoying life at the local "club" in much the same way Americans did in Havana. There are a few in particular, my mother in sparkling ballgown (which she sewed herself), smiling over my father’s shoulder as they dance to the strains of the orchestra at the Club ________, vocals provided by Beny More. I know about Beny because my mother loved his music. There is another photograph, a bottle-strewn table full of young people, all dressed to the nines, most of whom I would know as adults in another time and place. People I would watch age and die. And they were neither elite, nor Batistianos, nor worms.
It was a different way of life, as it was in the United States where men wore suits even in their leisure time. If they were poor like my father and his friends, they bought them second hand from the tailor, and they never left the house without a fedora- wool for winter and straw for summer. In any case, with all its flaws- they were many and serious in both countries- it was a more gracious era.