Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Day 6: Fearless Females: Las Mañanitas

Women's History Month Prompt: March 6 — Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestor (wedding ring or other jewelry, china, clothing, etc.) If you don’t have any, then write about a specific object you remember from your mother or grandmother, or aunt (a scarf, a hat, cooking utensil, furniture, etc.)

The restaurant waitstaff of "Las Mañanitas" broke out in "Estas son las mañanitas..." which according to my limited understanding of Mexican culture at the time, was the equivalent of Happy Birthday. Every guest, at the elegant outdoor restaurant in Cuernavaca, joined along. It wasn't my birthday and I stared at my future husband in confusion. He just smiled and gestured that he wasn't sure himself what all the fuss was about but that I should play along. The head waiter presented a large slice of cake topped with a candle and handed me a beautiful white lily. I thanked him graciously trying to pretend it was my birthday.

Since we arrived at the famous restaurant, things seemed strange. As we pulled up from long drive, the valet greeted us with: "Doctor, bienvenido!" The rest of the staff we encountered on the path leading from the front door to the lounge chairs in the beautiful garden seemed to know my fiance.
"Do you bring all your dates here?" I asked playfully, sipping my cocktail near the fountain. "How do they know you're a doctor?"
"I must have given my name as Dr. Jaime Belkind Gerson" he said, "when I made the reservation. I haven't been here in years, but I love this place and I wanted to take you out of Mexico City. Las Mañanitas is known for it's incredible service, they are just preforming their job, I guess," he supposed. 
Jaime and I at Las Mañanitas 1993
His explanation seemed reasonable, and until the baffling birthday incident, I bought into it. I turned my attention to the peacocks and other exotic birds roaming the grounds. As promised, the service was stupendous and so was the food, especially—my all-time favorite Mexican dish—the tortilla soup. The cheerful birthday song concluded to roaring applause from the crowd and I dutiful blew out the candle. No one moved. The waiters continued to tower over me as if expecting something else to happen. I sent Jaime another puzzled glance and he instructed me to look at the flower.
"It's beautiful!" I exclaimed. "Thank You!"
 "Look again," he insisted. 
I re-examined the Lily and asked "It's gorgeous and also smells amazing, but what is this all about? It's not my birthday." 
"Oh, the song is also for anniversaries," he smiled.
"But it's not our anniversary is it?" I began to doubt myself. Did I forget our anniversary? 
Everyone in the restaurant was staring at us. They too were wondering why the staff persisted to hang around. The waiter (who turned out to be the manager / son-in-law of the owner), reached down to my flower and said: "allow me". He twisted the white blossom, practically stuck it under my nose and said, "look again!"

There, nestled between the pedals I discovered an engagement ring. Oh my god, I thought. Everyone was smiling and Ruben (the manager, who later became our friend), helped me untangle the diamond. Jaime placed it on my finger. It fit perfectly! Everyone clapped and finally, to my relief, returned to their jobs or their food which was getting cold. 

I was not expecting a ring. We had been engaged for months and agreed not to spend money we didn't have on such frivolous things. We were buying a house and that was where we allocated our savings. When I regained my speeches, I reminded my husband of this pact. 
"Didn't we agree not to do the ring thing?" I asked gently, since much planning had gone into this beautiful gesture.
"We did," he acknowledged. I didn't buy it. "This was my grandmother's ring" he told me.    "I spent the last three days tracking it down with my grandfather."
"And you gave it to the waiter?" I gasped. "Seriously? Someone could have stolen it? It's priceless, and could never be replaced! It's your grandmother's! 
"I gave it to the manager/owner. This is a very reputable place. No one stole it, did they?" he concluded triumphantly. 
Salomon and Anita Gerson
May 23, 1943
Then he proceeded to tell me the story. Despite our agreement, my husband—ever the romantic, wanted to give me a symbolic ring. He asked his grandfather for help in purchasing an affordable ring.  His idea was to buy something small and upgrade later.  Salomon, Jaime's grandfather, heard the idea and immediately came up with a new plan. Salomon's wife, Anita, had passed away two years earlier, due to diabetic complications. Anita's premature death, at the age of sixty-five, was unexpected and very difficult for the entire family. Salomon's three children, were long married. He remembered the ring he had given his wife fifty years earlier and decided to put it to good use. Jaime the oldest grandchild was like a son to Anita and himself and Salomon wanted him to have the ring.

Anita died shortly before I met Jaime. We think of her often, and the ring holds a special connection between her and I. It also represents a final seal of approval from the Jaime's grandfather, whom I loved and admired. Anita must have been wearing her ring in this wedding portrait, but it's obstructed by her beautiful bouquet of white Lilies! Here I thought I didn't want a ring. Instead, I inherited a family heirloom which connects me to my husband and his family in the most powerful way.
Anita Cwilich Shapiro de Gerson

Visit earlier post in this series:
Women's History Month Day 1: Fearless Females: Favorite Female Ancestor & Genealogy Guru!
Women's History Month Day 2: Fearless Females: Third Great-Grandmother!
Women's History Month Day 3: Fearless Females: The Middle Name That Almost Was
Women's History Month Day 4: Fearless Females: Hats Off to the Top Fearless Female!
Women's History Month Day 5: Fearless Females: How I Met Your Mother

To learn more about +Lisa Alzo's 31 inspirational writing prompts in celebration of Women's History Month visit her blog:  The Accidental Genealogist. It's not too late to join!


  1. What a great story! I love things that have such wonderful value. They carry the feelings of the person with them.

  2. What a lovely story. I, too, remember Las Mañanitas well - it is a beautiful place. Your husband chose a wonderful place to surprise you with that very special heirloom.

    1. It is such a Cuernavaca landmark. That day was my first time. We've been there many many times since and I still love it! Everyone who visits Cuernavaca seems to know it! Amazing no?

  3. Smadar, you are hitting the jackpot with these Fearless Females posts...I keep coming back! This is a great story, thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Heather for the compliment! I am really enjoying working on this series! It's a powerful exercise. There are a few prompts coming up that I have no idea what to do with. I guess I'll have to get creative! Do come again!

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  5. Wow, what a romantic way to receive a ring... and a wonderful way to connect with family.

    1. It was very romantic! A memory we both cherish!

  6. You really drew me in with this story. I did some of the prompts last year and reading your post this afternoon has made me decide to take another look at the ones I missed for this year.

    1. I'm so glad Kristin! I'm glad you enjoyed the post! I didn't participate last year and I'm really enjoying writing these types of prompts. Are they them same prompts from last year or slight modified? Thanks for stopping by!

  7. What a dramatic story! Your husband concocted a huge surprise by giving you a ring more precious in family memory than any other ring possible, however expensive it might be. You look very happy together at Las Mananitas. With the peacock!

    Thank you for sharing this special moment with us all.

    1. Thanks, Mariann! He was dramatic! It's usually so obvious when he is "hiding" something, it must have really taken a lot to organize this surprise! It's a beautiful place, you should visit if you ever have the chance!


Thanks for sharing your comments!