Gloria and Emma Proksch, Fairfield’s colorful, hard-to-miss twins, wear identical outfits, jewelry, eyeglasses, and shoes, and do most everything alike—including working as accountants and marrying brothers. How many sisters share the same maiden and married names?
Step into their natural-stone ranch house across the street from Everybody’s Whole Foods and you are greeted by a cacophony of barks and yelps from the five dogs penned behind an accordion gate in the kitchen. As if in intentional counterpoint, a placid tabby cat sits on a nearby table, plaintively eyeing the twins as they settle onto a couch and armchair in the living room.
The family story is told by Gloria, the spokesperson, while Emma adds footnotes in the appropriate places, inserting her comments into the narrative so deftly one has the impression of listening to a single speaker. Occasionally, one a sister will dispute a fact, which more often than not begins with “No, monis,” monis being short for monisima or “cutie” in Spanish. They giggle, embarrassed at revealing this intimate detail. Yet clearly they enjoy it. Gloria’s hands move vigorously as she speaks, her warp-speed Mexican accent accompanied by the clanking of wrist bangles and bracelets (the same ones Emma has one) and her entertainer’s bright eyes.
It’s clear there is no “I” here, only a “we.” And we becomes otherworldly as stories of twin telepathy and synchronicity abound. For example, when Gloria was pregnant, it was Emma who suffered morning sickness. And there were the times the twins mailed the exact same birthday card to Gloria’s daughters from their distant homes in Minnesota and California. As children, one would beam a mental suggestion such as “come into the kitchen” in the middle of the night, only to find the other one waiting there.
Of course, the story of how the twins found their way from Guadalajara, Mexico, to Fairfield, Iowa, is anything but ordinary.
Love on the Plaza de Armas
The twins’ father, David Zapata, was a Spanish diplomat-turned-engineer who moved his family from Barcelona to Mexico when Gloria and Emma were toddlers. Their mother, Emma, was a devout Catholic.
The first step on their journey to the U.S. took place in February 1965 at Plaza de Armas in Guadalajara on a Sunday night, with a light orchestra playing and young men strolling the square armed with roses intended for the single women traveling with friends in the watchful gaze of chaperones.
One of these men was Charlie Proksch of Minneapolis. Charlie, the owner of a Dairy Queen and a few real estate properties, spent most winters vacationing in Mexico, and on this particular trip was on the lookout for a Latina bride. A fluent Spanish speaker, Charlie met Gloria that evening, courted her for a year in the chaste Mexican tradition, and on Valentine’s Day 1966, married her.
Gloria’s mother blessed her daughter’s marriage and new life in Minneapolis. “My mother always give us the wings,” explains Gloria. “When there was an opportunity to fly, she let us to fly. She was so wonderful a human being. Our mother was our best friend.”
The family’s history gushes forth with reverence, pride, and formality, as Gloria strategically emphasizes specific words, as in “My daughter Veronica is married, and is the beautiful mother of a precious granddaughter. My daughter Charlene is a gorgeous, wonderful mother. . . .”
Life Changing Events
In the years after the marriage, Gloria’s twin, Emma, traveled often from Mexico to visit Gloria and Charlie. On a vacation in 1969, Charlie drove the twins to Tucson, Arizona, to see his family. On meeting the comely, vibrant Emma, Charlie’s mother immediately phoned his younger brother, Ronald, an accountant living in California, urging him to come home.
“He went after her,” Gloria recalls with a mischievous laugh, as the doe-eyed Emma nods in agreement. On Valentine’s Day in 1969, Emma and Ronald married.
Both couples eventually found their way to Palm Springs, California, where the sisters lived close to one another for the first time in the U.S.
Their lives changed dramatically in 1972 when Charlie traveled to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, on a business trip, and saw a poster advertising a Transcendental Meditation lecture.
Charlie learned TM in nearby Fairfield. A Type A personality whose friends swore would be a candidate for stress-related illness suddenly became relaxed and easy going. Gloria was thunderstruck by the transformation. “Immediately, I noticed something was different in my husband. He was 10 years older than me and I could not keep up with him. What he had, I wanted.” In short order, Charlie flew Gloria, Emma, the rest of his family, and the twins’ mother (from Guadalajara) to Fairfield, where they all learned how to meditate.
But the idea of moving permanently to tiny, rural Fairfield, as Charlie wanted, panicked Gloria. What changed her mind was the love her two daughters felt for Fairfield and especially Maharishi School, where they attended summer school.
“My daughter, the oldest, she cry every time we leave here,” recalls Gloria. “She cry all the way to California. In 1978 is when we stay steady here.”
Now, 35 years later, the twins are at home in Fairfield. They live in a spacious home with a cream shag-carpeted living room, antique tables bearing framed photos, and a massive stone fireplace. Gloria, a widow since 1998, is in her 14th year as an accountant for a Fairfield immigration attorney. Emma is retired, having moved in with Gloria after Ronald died in 2009.
Why exactly do the twins dress alike? “Because we’re twins!” comes the answer, in sync from the identical ladies, without so much as a glance at one another. (Emma does all the clothes shopping.) Are they happy? “We are happy! Of course! Why not?” Which of them cooks? “Now that we are widows, we eat everywhere out. We especially love Istanbul Grill.” Do they get bored or run out of things to talk about? “No, never! You keep always growing.”
On Saturdays, the twins drive 60 miles north to Iowa City for ballroom dancing lessons, shopping at Coralville Mall and dining out. They listen to personal growth CDs while on the road: Wayne Dyer. Carolyn Myss. Deepak Chopra. Eckhart Tolle. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. “Is nothing more important than consciousness,” says Gloria. “It’s amazing to hear all these people. It’s all the same. All comes to the same. All cross paths.”
Those paths sometimes take unexpected twists and turns, especially for the Proksch twins. “The last thing I thought was that I would end up in Fairfield,” says Gloria. “You never know what will happen in life. We make so many remarkable changes. It is for us to be grateful for all we experience.”