Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dad’s Old Suitcase

My nuclear family—father, mother, little brother, and I—came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1961. We left behind what had been a pretty comfortable lifestyle—until the Castro takeover, that is. With communism we lost not just property, businesses, and that known and comfortable lifestyle. A greater loss was the loss of our inalienable rights—FREEDOM, FREEDOM OF SPEECH, FREEDOM TO CONGREGATE and so much more. So we came with nothing more than two duffle bags (they could hold more than suitcases) and started our lives over.

Starting over of course presented many challenges that were actually weathered quite well by my parents, so the transition for my little brother and me wasn’t as traumatic as one would expect.

One of those challenges was my father’s job. Where he had been a young, established professional with many friends and contacts that extended to the U.S., he now was a technician, an entry-level job in the industry where he had owned several businesses. We were thankful for the job, given to him by an industry associate who had become a good friend. And that is how/why we came to settle in Columbus, Ohio. He came to Columbus first, leaving the three of us in New York City—our point of entry into the U.S.—and he stayed in this gentleman’s and his wife’s house until he found “a place” at the YMCA. With the help of this couple and their friends our family was reunited in a tiny but new and cute apartment. This little girl remembers that the window sill of the large picture window was lined with African violets. To this day, I love African violets.

But I digress. The new job required that my father service the eastern part of Ohio, which meant overnight stays, and the need for a small suitcase. We came with duffle bags, remember?

DSCN8545 So Mrs. Mooney, his boss’s wife, gave him one of her suitcases. To this day her initials survive.

In my recent post about our furniture rearranging (HERE) we’d moved my MIL’s writing desk to a spot in the great room~

DSCN8491 but we needed something under the desk, and the suitcase, which I’ve carted around for many, many years, came to mind.

It was in such a sorry state…





DSCN8535 Not so good a shape, huh?

So I turned to my ol’ reliables—first E6000 glue to try to salvage some of the cracked and dried leather that had come loose, then Rustic Touch, to revive the leather itself.

DSCN8546 And I think you’ll agree that the results were amazing!

DSCN8548 The strips of leather along the sides were hanging by barely a thread. Re-gluing at least salvaged the pieces that were still there.


DSCN8552 So much better!

And now the suitcase is once again serving a purpose—as decoration in our home. I’m very happy about that! :)

DSCN8583 We had the trunk in another room, but it found its way to fill the void under the table.

DSCN8590With Black Beauty nearby, our babies are playing near something that belonged to their great-grandfather! I like that—a lot.

2013.9 Collage BEFORE BEFORE

2013.9 Collage AFTER AFTER


This little suitcase represents a lot of important things about our family: The courage to leave the known life for the unknown; the courage to seek freedom; the courage to start over, putting pride aside; the courage to maneuver through the challenges of learning a new language. It’s an important memento in our family.

Those weren’t unhappy times for our family; we were very grateful for the freedom, for the open arms with which we were welcomed and helped. And the story of the suitcase has a happy ending~~~my dad was able to buy the business from his friend and create success in his/our new country. Dad’s been gone many years now, but the business still remains in the family.


A bit more about our departure:

Did you see the Ben Affleck movie Argo? According to, “the movie sticks pretty close to what really happened during the Iranian Revolution. In 1980, a CIA agent named Tony Mendez sneaked into Iran and spirited away six American diplomats who were hiding with Canadians….Mendez and one of the American diplomats say those hours at the airport were plenty tense.”

Our family’s hours at the airport were plenty tense too. I can’t begin to imagine the stress my parents and the family members who were outside the glassed waiting area to see us off (hopefully) were under, because my parents were traveling with children—little children! Being the older of the two, they decided I would travel with my father, and my little brother with my mother, but via separate airlines, in an effort to disguise the fact that we were all leaving/escaping. Can you imagine keeping a 5-year-old from wanting to walk across the room to play with his sister or sit with his father?! We now have a 5-year-old grandbaby…I.can’t.imagine….

I think Ben Affleck needs to hear our story, don’t you? :) 


What family pieces are precious to you, and how do you use or display them? I’d love to read your stories.


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From my nest to  yours, ~Zuni


  1. I absolutely love the briefcase...but love the story behind it even should be so immensely proud of your family and all that they dear friend and next door neighbor shares a similar story coming from Cuba...and she is one of the strongest people I've ever met....they had to leave everything behind, too, and came over with nothing...and now he's a doctor. Anyway....I loved your family's story and respect it tremendously.


    1. Hi, Lana. I AM very proud of my parents (and many other family members) who had the courage to leave as opposed to staying in a country that has only gotten worse with each passing year. Not many really know about the oppression and hunger that happens there. I understand what you mean when you say your neighbor is one of the strongest people you’ve ever met…these experiences really shape who you are and what you become. Thanks so much for stopping by and for your tender comments. ~Zuni

  2. I so enjoyed your story about your family. To leave everything behind and start over again. You must be so proud of your father.
    Thanks for sharing your story with us. I am so glad to meet you.

    1. I'm so glad you stopped by, Mary, and that you enjoyed the story. Isn't it interesting how a simple object can hold such dear memories and tell such intersting stories? Thank you for your sweet comments--yes, I'm very proud of my family and every Cuban who had the courage to walk away, some under very, very dangerous conditions. ~Zuni

  3. That is an amazing story, Zuni! I love that you are using this old suitcase that has a story {and one that is so personal to you} in your home décor. It looks perfect under your desk!

    1. Hi, Kathy. Thanks for stopping by and for your sweet comments. I used the suitcase once before, but for many years now it had been in the basement. I was so happy when I thought about this spot for it! ~Zuni

  4. Hola Zuni,
    Que historia mas impresionante nos has compartido hoy. Verdaderamente todo un reto y mucha valentia dejar tu pais natal y empezar nuevamente sin nada mas que con dos bolsas de lona. Mi mas sincero y profundo respeto hacia tus padres, que tuvieron el coraje y la valentia de salir de un pais comunista y luchar por su libertad. Esta historia es muy conmovedora, realmente admiro a las personas que tienen la valentia de luchar por el derecho a la libertad.

    Esta maleta debe ser muy preciada por ti y tu familia, no tiene precio, verdad? Ademas decora hermosamente tu hogar, me gusto mucho el caballo de madera, luce muy vintage y espectacular.

    Mi querida amiga, no me queda mas que felicitarte por tan bella historia, te mando un abrazo con mucho cariño,

    Tu amiga,


    1. Que linda cartica, Laura, me mandas con tanto carino. Mi papa tenia 35 y mi mama solamente 27...siempre he pensado en su juventud cuando tomaron tal decision. Mucho carino para ti tambien. Cuanto me alegra tenerte de amiga. ~Zuni

  5. Zuni,
    This is such a sweet post. I loved learning about your family history and I love that you are using the suitcase even now after all these years. Dianne

  6. So many family memories tied to the suitcase. I enjoyed reading about your father. I have my great-grandmother's crocheted purse hanging on the halltree in the foyer.

  7. Zuni, what an inspiring and admirable story of your parents' courage and care for each other and you children! Seeing your father's old suitcase -- now lookin' good! -- in such a visible place in your home must be such a comfort and blessing to you. My Spanish professor at Baylor and his wife also fled Cuba with nothing, and some of the stories he told have stayed with me to this day. I can't even imagine what it took to "begin again" like so many of your family and countrymen... I'm so glad you shared this story -- and I'm going to remember Rustic Touch! :-)

  8. I love old suitcases and trunks because they have such history. But to have one that holds YOUR history would be so priceless. Thanks so much for sharing your family's story.

  9. What a beautiful story, I loved to hear your brief story on how you and your dear family went to the USA, which the little piece of luggage holds so many memories for you and I'm so happy you could restore her to such perfection, she's adorable under your side table. My mom had two of these from 1950, when they went to the US. and always saw them around the house, than one day I never saw them. I have trunks with stories like this from Alejandro's family coming to Ecuador from Spain in boats, back in the 1800's. Muchas gracias por tu hermosa y sentida historia de familia, me llego al corazón como a todos los imigrantes de ese majestuoso país, al cual yo amo inmensamente! Besitos and thanks for popping in to see me, sweetie.
    Big hugs to you,

  10. Zuni, I love this wonderful family story. It is a story of a loving father doing what is necessary to protect and provide for his family. It is the story of the human spirit and what hard work and determination can do for one.

  11. Zuni - this post brought tears to my eyes, even though I already knew some parts of your story. What a treasure you have and so full of touching memories. What an amazing man your father must have been - and so brave to start over in a new country. I am so glad that you are here, my blogging friend!!

    1. Awww, you're so sweet, Diane. I'm always so happy to hear from you. I can't imagine being as young as they were and just walking out of your home early one morning to escape, without telling anyone, lest they turned you in to the authorities... Thank you for visiting, and I too, am very glad to be here, in this wonderful country, where I've met people like you. ~Zuni

  12. Very sweet post. Love the story about your family.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Hope to see you on my blog:)

    1. Thank you for visiting and your interest in my story. Yes, I visited your lovely blog. :) ~Zuni

  13. Thanks for the visit to my place and I am so glad to return the visit and be rewarded with such a wonderful story about the suitcase and your family flight from Cuba. I love the vignette you created, but I love your story more!

  14. What a poignant story, Zuni. Love how you have incorporated the suitcase into your decor. Hope all is well with you. My job keeps me hopping- with no time for blogging, whatsoever. What fun would life be without changes? LOL
    Hope you will stay in touch when you can. Sue

    1. How nice to hear from you, Sue! I'm glad you at least have time to visit some of your old blog haunts and that mine was one of those! I'm glad you enjoyed the story. We will definitely stay in touch. Maybe I'll get to stop by your shop sometime soon! ~Zuni

  15. I'm so glad I saw your post and came to read this story of your life. You did a beautiful job of refreshing the old suitcase. I'm glad you didn't make it look new or deserves it's history. You have a beautiful home. Sweet hugs, Diane

    1. Thanks for stopping by and your sweet comments, Diane. I'm glad you agree that his suitcase needed to show its age and where it's been. I really wanted to keep it that tells more of his story. :)

  16. The suitcase under the desk is brilliant.


  17. Weeping sweet tears. This is a story that so many in our country need to here. Thanks for sharing with us. Cherry Kay

    1. Hi, Cherry Kay. I'm glad you enjoyed this post. Our country is too good and precious for some to be able to imagine what it's like in other countries.

    2. Hi, Cherry Kay. I'm glad you enjoyed this post. Our country is too good and precious for some to be able to imagine what it's like in other countries.

  18. I am so glad you were able to repair so much of the suitcase and use it in your home! Such memories! I admire you and your family. I have a good friend who's family fled the Castro regime, but his Dad was not able to make it and he died there. He has fought for his freedoms all his life! Thanks for sharing at TTF

  19. I'm so glad I took the time to scroll down a bit to see this story Zuni. Of course, all your vignettes are lovely, but it is with stories like this that we come to know the person behind the blog and appreciate their history. The suitcase is such a fabulous item to have as a reminder of all your parents went through and their courage. I'm glad you kept much of it's age apparent. To me, that's the true beauty of it. To answer your question, I have my grandmother's sewing machine. I believe it from the late 29's/30's. I wrote about it in a post 'A life not forgotten' if you want to take a peek.

    (I have to tell you...even after all these years I don't think even one person has ever mentioned that my father was looking at me in that picture.)

  20. I love your dad's old suitcase! I have mama's little suitcase. At my daughter's travel theme wedding that's what we will collect the cards in.


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