External Photo Clues:
Now this photo takes me back! That is my mother, Evelyn Estes, or as most everyone called her, Evie. That little jacket is for me, a gift from my Auntie Gerdie from France, I believe. As per usual, Gerdie, only called Gertrude when she got in trouble, made quite the entrance; this time in a brand new car that blinded you as it glinted fender to fender. My mom always got so excited when her big sister would show up. Her visits were always unexpected, but revitalized my mom at just the right time, when you could see her spirit start to drag.
Growing up, the two of them were inseparable. They were the only girls in a family of seven with five older brothers to keep them in line. They were only a year apart so as they got older they always had the same friends, went on double dates, in fact, most people thought they were twins. Don’t be fooled, they really needed those older brothers to keep them in check when their wild streaks would flare up.
One of my mom’s favorite memories was when she and my auntie snuck out with a couple of their girlfriends one cool summer night when they were about 15 and 16. One of their friends, I think her name was Mona, stole her dad’s Ford to come pick them up. Turning off the car and slipping it into neutral, they slowly pushed the car down the road until they were out of earshot of the farm. That night the girls decided to go into town and climb over the stone country club wall so they could use the sleek new pool they’d heard some of the wealthier kids brag about. My mom said they felt like royalty, prancing around the edge of the pool and practicing their dives, previously known only to the lakes and ponds near their houses. They lay out under the stars, the glow of the moon and the pool lights on their faces as they dreamed of the big world they were all determined to see when they got out of this pipsqueak town. Security eventually figured out they were there, but not before the three of them effortlessly floated over the wall. None of them were ready for this reverie to end. Spotting the water tower nearby, they raced to its base and climbed all the way to the top. Gerdie always had a surprise up her sleeve and this was no exception – out from Gerdie’s pocket slipped a flask of my great grandmother’s moonshine she’d made in her bathtub to help with bills. They passed around the flask, fantasizing about their future adventures to the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower and the Brazilian rainforest. My mom always makes sure to mention she was feigning most of her swigs and that she would swat me if she ever caught me drinking something that heavy.
By the time Gerdie left high school, her heart was set on Broadway so she packed her bags and promised to come back for my mama in a year. She kept her promise, bringing costumes and playbills from all of her Off-Off Broadway shows and a slew of sailors’ pictures she’d kept from Fleet Week. Leaving the family and her high school beau behind, my mom followed her sister out East working any odd job she could to help pay the rent. The two of them have endless stories from visits to Coney Island to sneaking into the 21 Club and more, some of which I don’t know if my mom will ever think I am old enough to know about.
Eventually my mom met a sailor of her own whom she married at city hall and had two baby girls. They moved around, port to port with the Navy while my mom took care of our ever-changing home, taking up writing and knitting in her free time. Auntie Gerdie was a much more restless spirit who never settled down with any man and hopped on whatever train was moving the fastest. Gerdie never forgot to check in on her little sister and bring her all the treasures from her travels around the world, but it wouldn’t be more than a week before she was gallivanting off to some new exotic locale.
There were times Mom had worried about not taking life by storm like Gerdie, but she knew it wouldn’t have been the fit for her. She eventually started writing about all of her experiences and recorded the ones that Gerdie told her about and became a pretty well known author because of them. For the last ten years of Gerdie’s life she came to stay with my parents, trying something completely exciting and new: staying put. The day Gerdie died I know a part of my mother died as well, but through her writing and photographs she is able to return again and again to that big personality that can’t be stifled, even in the afterlife. Everyday I aspire to live like these beautiful women born with vinegar in their veins, each revolutionary in their own way when the world was just warming up to it.
About The Author:
Josephine Stocks is originally from Michigan, having moved to Oklahoma to study Film at OU and be closer to her now-husband. You can find her reading, watching movies, baking or writing as much as possible, whether it’s a screenplay or for her blog.
Authoring For The Imaginary Family Project:
Oops!… we are temporarily over-subscribed.
We will re-open applications soon. Please check back in a week or two.
About The Imaginary Family Project:
The 2011 Imaginary Family Project is a year-long collective art endeavor coordinated by occasional amateur artist Quentin Bomgardner and co-sponsored by The Red Dirt Chronicles. This project is based around “lost” vintage photographs, which have been acquired at flea markets, garage sales, estate sales, and eBay – heirloom collections, with no heir. Every week a different author will “find” one photograph by creating an imagined history around one of its subjects. At the end of the year, the collection will be compiled and presented as a group.