Cousin Flora

My mother’s cousin, Flora, was born (according the records I am able to find) in Los Angeles County on April 20, 1913.

The 1918 Los Angeles city directory lists Flora’s parents’ address as 1424 11th Street, Santa Monica, California, an address that has been transformed from whatever it was when my Great Aunt Lillian and her then husband, Vaso Ruzich, lived there with Flora to this complex:

1424 11th Street, Santa Monica, California
1424 11th Street, Santa Monica, California

Before the new year of 1919 arrived, Vaso Ruzich, would be a memory, and my Great Aunt Lillian would find herself widowed with a small child, and she and Flora would eventually find their way from Santa Monica to 217 North Mariposa Street in Fresno, California, where my great aunt and her daughter would live out most of their lives.

Flora was her mother’s first and favorite child, and because Flora died without ever having married or given birth to children of her own, the record of her life is very slim, but one place where Flora continues to live is in a series of city directories from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.

The first mention of her appears in 1932.

She is 19 years old and lives with her mother; she works as a clerk.

Flora appears again in 1934 by which time she is working as a stenographer. In 1935, she still lives with her mother, but no occupation is listed. In 1936 and 1937, she is once again working as a stenographer and continues to reside at 217 North Mariposa Street.

Then, in 1939, there is a curious change. While Flora’s employment remains the same, she lives at 1110 11th Street, in Sacramento, California, nearly 200 miles and a world away from her mother’s house in Fresno.

By 1940, however, she back home, and as the years pass she continues to work, her job expanding to fill the title of “secretary.”

My mother’s cousin very much embraced the thoroughly modern Millie ethos of the 1920s that was popular when she came of age, and she had her own sense of style, one which is reflected in one of the few artifacts that remain of her life: a mink stole comprised of four former minks:

My mother's cousin Flora's mink stole
Flora’s mink stole

It is a piece that I find compelling as it embodies so much of how the world has changed, and at the same time connects me to this cousin I never met.

While it is, on one level, a bit disquieting to see this face peering out from an accessory:

The face of the front most mink of Flora's mink stole
The frontmost mink face

or to have this tail brush against one’s arm:

A bushy mink tail from Flora's mink stole
A mink tail

the piece as a whole is compelling, and from the first moment I saw it, I wanted to create a sort of amigurumi-ish vegan version of these minks that I call vinx.

I am choosing to work with bright acrylic yarns to make something that is both washable and playful.

Using worsted weight yarn, a crochet tension regulator, and a 5.0 mm hook, I got to work, and after some frogging here and there, I made what I considered substantive progress on a would-be tail and half of the body of a vinx:

A vinx or vegan mink for a vegan mink stole
A vinx to be

When we go about the business of living our lives, we don’t know what the pieces are that we will leave behind by which others will remember us, but even the quietest of lives leaves traces that will in some way will inspire those who follow.

 

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