Perhaps not all gone-by times are better, but I’m missing some of the simplicity gone-by times had and I have never known. Take as an example people and their professions. I was just thinking of my grandmother’s brothers –on my mother side-, each of which has always been referred to by both their given names and their respective professions: Francisco, or ‘el barber;’ Jaume, or ‘el carnicer’(the butcher); Toni, or ‘el ferrer’ (the smith). My father’s father and brother, whom I never met, because they died before I was born, were sailors. That was I’m sure one of the reason my father did change professions when he was still only a kid and had already been a sailor for a while. He became a painter, another plain, simple, one-word profession. My uncle on mother’s side, a carpenter, and still –miraculously- one.
Uncle Toni had to update his job description to accommodate new developments in the industry: he went from making windows, balconies and doors out of iron to make them out of aluminum, so he became an ‘aluminum-smith.” My brother and my cousins do not have professions. Some of them are lucky to have jobs, and they can only call themselves electrician or mechanic while they keep the job.
My family was a family of workers in the literal sense. They just worked, and all of them used their hands. If I haven’t mentioned the women yet is because I’m talking about times when women did not have jobs either. They worked, but they did not get any money or title for it. My grandmother’s father, the father of all those men with professions, did not have a known profession. By my grandma’s accounts, he went to France, supposedly to work and help the family economically, but it didn’t quite work like that. Not much money came from France, but more children were engendered in each of his visits home. More children were engendered in France during his periods away from home. And beatings every time he came home, for a wife that did not have time for the imagined infidelities that were only a reflection of his own. There was a woman with no profession, but with many jobs: raising seven children, working in the fields to support them, doing the housework, and she did it all so that those children were all able to stand on their feet soon.
Of course, standing on their own feet was not an option just yet for her daughters. They could only opt to a husband and children. One of the husbands was a copy of that father, another left much to be desired. The third one, my grandfather, who I always liked very much, was nonetheless impregnated with the macho power ever present in that time and so strong still in some cases in the present.
It was understood they had to work in and out of the house and raise their children. Professions, though, were out of the question. Come to think of it, only one of those women has, like her male siblings, a ‘qualifying’ nickname by which she is also referred to: ‘la coixa’ (the cripple), since an accident in childhood left her walking in clutches for the rest of her life.