Doll Dresser

In Fun
The doll dresser
The doll dresser

My grandma never told me about life in Cuba. I was only 6 when she passed, but that’s not why. With many more years, my Mom heard only a handful of stories. Assimilation silenced my Grandma’s stories almost as much as her Spanish. She was 9 when she left our family ranch near Camaguey, Cuba for Bainbridge Avenue in the Bronx. Allowed one toy on the voyage, she chose a doll dresser. That dresser found its way to the Bronx; to my mother’s childhood home in North Andover, MA; and today is in my room in Connecticut. 

Quickly my Grandma passed as a native U.S. citizen, clearly a goal of her mother who encouraged forgetting Cuba. Told to, she stopped speaking—and seemed to forget—her Spanish. Two generations later I struggled through 10 years of Spanish class with a disastrous “American” accent. After attending Hunter College, she married my grandfather, lost her last name (Rodriguez) and moved to the suburbs. Very little of our family’s Cuban history, language, or culture remained, but this dresser survived, serving the same purpose for 3 generations and over 100 years. As children my Grandma, Mom, and I used it for doll clothes. Then, before having our own children it held other valuables. 

Told to forget Cuba, it allowed my grandma to pass on her story perhaps the only way she knew how, suggesting to me she wanted to share her past, but felt she couldn’t. Receiving the dresser was the first time both my mom and I heard of Cuba. It opened the conversation, leading us to ask more. 

Place(s): Cuba, New York
Year: 1924

– Angela Bentley

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant