We headed to upstate New York to visit my “Titi” Suinda. Her name is actually Fredesuinda and people in New York mostly call her “Freddy” but to me she is Titi Suinda. Titi is used in Puerto Rico for Aunt, it’s a diminutive version (like auntie) of “Tia”- aunt. And it really seems appropriate for Titi Suinda, who’s about 4’11” or so. She’s part of my dad’s side of the family, which my brother used to call “the little Vegas”. And no I did not get the tiny skinny gene.
Anyway, Titi Suinda is 94 years old and lives by herself, although her son is one town away and keeps tabs on her. She, like quite a few other women in this family, is fierce. Something about these tiny Vega women.
While visiting this area, we also continued our tour of presidential libraries by driving over to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library. Unfortunately, the permanent exhibit galleries of the FDR library are closed for renovation. This is the first major renovation since the library opened in 1941 and the first complete renovation of a presidential library.
During the time of the renovation, the library is offering a new photography and multimedia exhibition, “The Roosevelts: Public Figures, Private Lives.” It’s the largest photography exhibition on the lives and public careers of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The FDR Presidential Library is part of the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, which contains FDR’s lifelong home, the Presidential Library and Museum, an educational center, and Eleanor Roosevelt’s cottage. This makes it the only site that contains both the Presidential library and the president’s personal residence.
The photography exhibit, as well as the tour of FDR’s lifelong home provide a very personal look at the lives of our only four term President, a hero to many, Eleanor Roosevelt and their fascinating partnership. FDR took office during the Great Depression and undertook numerous efforts to revive the economy and support what he called his four freedoms. Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Many of the results of these programs we continue to enjoy today.
Eleanor Roosevelt’s story is an inspiring one. Her mother, who was considered a great beauty was disappointed in Eleanor’s looks. Eleanor was aware of this and was self-conscious as a child although her father doted on her. In an interview in her later life, Eleanor named several people who shaped her life, saying her father “provided her love and assurance” and her mother “gave her the unattainable goal of perfection”. A third was her headmistress and teacher at a boarding school where she gained a sense of confidence. Eleanor Roosevelt went on to become a passionate advocate for the rights of women, racial and ethnic minorities and the poor. A hero to many.
On to my visit with my Titi Suinda. She was thoroughly entertaining, recounting stories of many of my aunts and uncles (my grandmother had 17 children, though several didn’t survive childhood), their children and their grandchildren. We looked at old photographs and she told us some more stories, including which universities young members of the family graduated from, and what degrees they have. With such an extensive family spread out across the U.S. I have no idea how she remembers all of this.
I asked her how she met her husband, who passed away years ago. With a gleam in her eye and a beautiful smile, she declared “I love to tell this story, I still love my husband so much.” Even though Uncle Paul is no longer with us, I can see that thinking about him still brings her joy. I love that, SO romantic.
Another thing I love about my Titi is that while telling me stories about so many members of our family, she only had kind words about each and every one of them. She is my hero.