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Gumma said that when she was born . . .

Gumma said that when she was born her mother held her up in the rain (does it ever rain in El Paso, Texas?) and named her Gioja. This was just one of the many ways she was different from her very extraordinary sister, Dita. Her sister, Anita Estebana Cecilia etc., had seven names, seven attendant godmothers, a fancy christening (in a Catholic Church?), and a party (in Germany or Mexico?). Gumma was simply, Gioja.

Like most of Gumma’s stories, it is simple and wonderful, but requires credulity, or you end up with too many questions, like:
1. Does it rain in Texas?
2. Why GioJa (the variant of Italian Gioia – joy) also found in Portuguese.
3. Why Italian and not to Spanish?
4. Why not ever have a big christening later after the chaos of their flight from the Mexican Revolution – say in Santa Barbara, Staten Island, Germany with the rest of the family?
5. Was the family Catholic? We certainly weren’t anything in particular when I heard the story. Which was probably prompted by my questions about names, godparents, and church.
6. And, finally, why did she always set herself up as different from her sister? The two girls were known as, “les soeurs” by doting aunts and grandmothers — again with a language shift — French instead of native German.

Well, I am Gioja’s granddaughter, Mary, and I have gazillion letters most of them written around 1912 when Gioja was born. The letters were exchanged among her mother (Anita Risse Stallforth), her father (Federico Stallforth), her sisters (Estebena, Cecelia, etc.), and other family members.

Gioja, her mother, Aunt Estbena (Adie), and her sister, Dita, moved from El Paso, Texas, to Santa Barbara, CA, and then on to Staten Island, NY, with various trips to Europe and various visits from father, Federico or Papsi.

This is the story I am going to follow on this blog for the time being. I am joined by my sister, Simrat, and my aunt, Gioja’s youngest daughter, Lawrence.