Monday, February 17, 2014

Looking back: Josephine

I have found that even though I’m not actively working on my memoir, memories and remembrances from the past come to me and want to be told. So I’m making them little stories to share.

Today’s post is about Josephine, my great-aunt and the doll that she gave me.

Aunt Josephine was my father’s aunt, so my great-aunt. She was my paternal grandmother’s youngest sister. The photo below is one taken of my great-grandparents and their daughters. Aunt Josephine is the little girl on the right on the front row. My grandmother is on the back row, second from the left.
There were brothers in the family, too—quite a large family—but none are in this photo.

My grandmother died when I was 4 years old, so I don’t remember much about her. Two of her sisters, Josephine and Ida, who is standing beside Josephine in the photo, were like surrogate grandmothers to me growing up.
I didn’t think of them as that when I was little. It was only when I was an adult did I realize how they played that grandmotherly role with me.
Aunt Josephine played another important role in my life. She had been the one to introduce my parents to each other. She was the youth leader at my mother’s church in the 1940s, and she thought she and her nephew would get along.

Aunt Josephine was fascinating to me. She loved antiques and collected a lot of things. Her husband built a little building beside their house for her to store her treasures.
Her house was so different from mine. It was full of stuff. There seemed to be no order to anything.
Sometimes Aunt Josephine’s mood would be low. She looked greatly fatigued, like she could barely move, and her eyes looked sunken in.
I remember her visiting our house one hot, summer day. She looked drained and sad. But she sat down at our piano and played lovely tunes by ear.
I understand now that the way she kept her house and her low moods may have pointed to depression. At the time, it just seemed like that was the way she was.

One day, for some reason, she gave me a doll she had found somewhere in her treasure hunts. I was little enough to still be playing with dolls, and I liked this doll’s pretty face and what was then long golden hair.
I held on to the doll, and some years ago, after I had had her in storage for a long time, I decided to refurbish her a bit.
All of the photos of Josephine the doll in this post are "after" the changes.

One side of her head was bald where her wig was halfway off, and the hair itself smelled moldy. So I tore off the wig and gave her a good bath.
I bought a bag of doll hair. It was in individual ringlets. I hot-glued each one to her head, giving her a head full of dark hair.

Why dark hair? Because Aunt Josephine had had dark hair before it turned white, and I wanted to name my doll Josephine.
I added a pair of glasses because I liked the look.
The dress she has on in these photos is an old baby dress—one of mine, I think. And she’s wearing my baby shoes.
I would like to dress her in clothes that look like a girl would wear around the turn of the 20th century. Someday I will.

For now, she sits in a rocking chair that was mine as a child. And she reminds me of Aunt Josephine.

Do you or did you have any relatives that fascinated you?


  1. another wonderful old photo, I love them...and I really enjoyed your story and photos of Josephine. And yes I do have few relatives that I adore/d who contribute/d to who I am today and who gave me fabulous memories.

  2. Oh you were so lucky to grow up with family around Aunt Josephine and your Grandmother. Aunt Josephine sounds like a wonderful soul and YOUR JOSEPHINE IS truly beautiful. Hug B

  3. Your aunt sounds really neat. I love that her husband built her a shed for treasures. He sounds like a good man! :-)

  4. Your great aunt sounds like a lovely lady- and I think your doll is adorable. I love her hair and glasses.

  5. What a wonderful remembrance Tina! She sounds like she was an absolutely wonderful woman.

    The relative that fascinated me was my grandmother Frances :)

  6. How nice you had surrogate grandmas... and Josephine is a lovely treasure. xo

  7. a nice remembrance of her. you did a good job on the hair restoration!

  8. You gave her a beautiful mane of hair. Much better than moldy hair that was barely there. That rhymes!

  9. my aunt dot, my grandmothers sister, was my favorite. my grandmother died before i was born. we would sit at her dining room table for hours, watching the birds. she made homemade suet for them. my pop was in charge of keeping everything filled!!

    i love the dolls curly locks!!

  10. This is such a nice way to remember your Aunt Josephine! I love that you're refurbishing this special doll.

  11. You did such a marvelous job refurbishing Josephine. Thank you for sharing your family stories . . .
    Golly, you are super talented.
    I am always in awe . . . .

  12. Wow great work with the doll! The hair is gorgeous.

  13. The photo and the doll are just spectacular! Way to go!

  14. What a great post! I am glad you had an Aunt Josephine.


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