...someone else's love story...

One day, long ago, before Prohibition and the Great Depression, Frida posed for a photo, perhaps at one of the first of many Luna Parks. She looked so much younger than her passport photo, slightly carefree, one hand on her thigh, the other arm resting on the moon, surrounded by stars, her dark hair blending into the fabric of the night sky. She wore a minimum of jewelry and no make-up. Her dress is modest but with many buttons. Her sensible shoes shine yet look small, graceful, ankles crossed. Perhaps she was pregnant again and hadn't yet told her husband. Or perhaps, he insisted that day at the fair, after roller coaster rides and balloons for the children, having once upon a time promised her the moon in Germany.

Frida's life started in Germany, born to Karl August Friedrich Callies (or Calise) and Ulriche Wilhelmina Caroline Pautz on May 25, 1890, the fifth of seven children.

At some fate-changing point in time, she became a governess for a well-to-do married couple with two young sons, Walter and Hans. Any photos of the man, Max, ten years her senior, with his first family, have the unknown wife carefully cut out of the picture.

Frida and Max had four children together, born between 1915 to 1920. One of them was my husband's father.

We have passport photos taken in 1923 but no other documents. Either that or they exist somewhere in a box, with other things my husband saves but now forgets.

History differs on the brief life they shared after arriving in the United States, settling in Cleveland, Ohio. According to the Mormons, Max was a candymaker. Family legend is they owned a small pet shop, where they both contracted "parrot fever", and died within one day of each other in November 1930. The death dates are confirmed by the graveyard and by discussions with their adult children, who were raised by other family members. They are all dead now, too.

This is merely wishful thinking, but I like to imagine the man who looks so stern and haunted in his passport photo remembered his promise, and even though it was just a wooden moon, a photographer's prop, he gave into the whimsy of life, not knowing it would be the last photo of Frida.

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