I enjoy church music, but E’ton Christian Church had a special surprise this past Sunday with Phoebe Jenkins Drape and her spouse Dave. Phoebe’s dad was pastor of the church in the late 50s and early 60s, and Phoebe (EHS ’62) and her brother Phillip were members of an active youth group at the time.
My sister Faye (EHS ’64) was also a member of this fun group as was Caroline Clayton (EHS ’62), one of E’ton’s clerks and still active church member. I was a tad older than most in the group, and when my sister attended. People sometimes referred to us as the Cothran twins although we were four years apart and I had black hair like my dad and Faye was blonde like our mom. I remember once when Phillip came by our house to tell Faye something about one of their meetings.
I was usually away at college but was home that day. I answered the door and he preceded to tell me about the change in the meeting and I asked him to wait. ”I’ll get Faye.” He had a look of astonishment and quipped, “If you don’t want to attend, Faye, just say so.” I tried to explain that I wasn’t Faye as he departed. The next day, he came returned saying he was sorry and owed me an explanation. “I didn’t know there were two of you.” That was the first many times I was mistaken for my younger sister. It became more complicated when we married brothers and had the same last name again.
I taught a semester at E’ton but later was offered a position at Madisonville. Then Faye began at E’ton. Students often were confused when I didn’t recognize them, thinking they were talking to their EHS teacher Mrs. Faye Gipson. Things got more confusing when Faye changed her hair color from blonde to dark.
A few times our mom called us by the other’s name. Faye and I were both competitive, but she especially liked to win at Scrabble. It was a bit like “X’s” and “O’s” and depended on who went first would win. We used most of the same words. We even finished each other’s sentences. It was a shock when we learned she was diagnosed with colon cancer at a young age. It’s tragic to lose any sibling and especially one with whom you share so many activities. We had a gospel family group.
We researched and wrote books together. And always, we were competitive. Sometimes now, when I write, I look over my shoulder expecting to hear, “Too wordy” or “Too many commas.” Neither playing piano nor singing nor writing have ever been the same since she left us.
This weekend her youngest daughter, Heather, dropped by from Nashville. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her. What a pleasant surprise. It was her daughter Molly’s 6th birthday. Heather, Molly & 9 year-old David came laden with vanilla and chocolate cupcakes. Another sweet surprise! I tried to load the kids up with stuffed animals and toys but Heather vetoed most of the items.
When she gathered up the kids and the stuffed shark, rabbit and dogs, I said, “Wait! I have a cover sheet that Aunt Rita and I put at the front of our books. It’s photos of a young Faye, Kim Su and Matt and then photos of them older.” It had never dawned on me (not a pun, D) that the face of young Faye was so like little Molly (the spitting image of her mom) and Heather herself. It took my breath away.
I knew the impact of the loss their mom had on Faye’s children. I said, “I’m sorry, Heather. Seeing you and Molly and your mom’s grade school photo takes me back. It’s almost like seeing Faye.” She hugged me. “I have the same reaction when I look at my hands.”
Strange, I get that same feeling sometimes when I look down at my hands when I’m typing. I see my mom’s hands. DNA is a powerful influence, but sudden memories are more so. They make your heart race and time cease for a few seconds--like slow motion.
A faint whiff of cologne. A laugh. A familiar walk. A facial similarity caught in a quick smile, a sparkle in the eyes or a phrase recognized from the recesses of memory. Sometimes, our minds play tricks, and we hear the laugh or smell that familiar scent when we’re alone.
Each year, we think we’ve moved on, but memories resurface at mysterious moments. When we think we have them under control, they pop up again as clear as decades past. Thanks goodness they do. Perhaps, it’s just my age. Still, I had a nice weekend. It included a trip back to the 50s with Phoebe and her beautiful organ music from yesterday and, somehow, a short visit that caught me by surprise by my so-called twin in the faces of a niece and great niece.
Yep, all-in-all, two unexpected and happy journeys back through time.