Thursday, June 11, 2015

November 8, 1939: Don't Catch a Cold!

Two days after her first letter, Opa’s mother writes again, this letter is a hilarious mixture of motherly advice, people to visit, and a sprinkle of guilt.  In this letter is a little gem, a phrase I had never heard before: “brother inside.”  I’ll let you read the letter as a whole this time. Then we’ll chat...

The original German letter:

Translation by Rose:

Nov. 8th, 1939

My beloved boy,

For your arrival in your new homeland I wish to send you, lots and lots of luck! In my thoughts I am with you, full of hope for your work, your accomplishments, your life.

The other day, an American, giving a lecture, said that the air there is full of electricity, so that you feel more energetic, dynamic, you must do something, you must act.

Surely these activities will move you into the correct path, I have great faith in you, your wants, your abilities and your luck.

But I also cannot help myself Hunschenkind,* I have to give you some Mama advice, be careful with your health, protect against colds, and when you do not feel well, do something about it, take care of yourself.

In case that you are not expected there, you know Hanna’s address, I will also send you Otto’s address and phone number. If you have a chance to talk to him, tell him that all his relatives are doing well, tell him hello from them and me. And of course especially hearty greetings to Hanna. I am very surprised and sad that she does not write at all.

And please report in detail about everything, especially about yourself, my beloved child, your adventures and your “brother inside(A german expression meaning your real inner feelings)

Your Mama is waiting with terrible longing for that. So, my dear big boy go into the new life with joy, courage and hope.

I kiss you my dear child
Your Mama

On the sides of the pages:

Greetings and kisses from Annken

Otto’s address
301 Crestwood AVE
Yonkers NY

Perhaps you can find him in the telephone book under his wife’s name ORTH. I was told that the letter will not get to New York in time, so I am sending it now, my beloved boy.
No.2, this is the second letter to MCPherson

First, a word of translating business. You may have noticed the asterisk I placed next to the word “Hunschenkind." This is a pet name that is used in many of Ella’s letters, and some of Patti’s (his sister).  I didn't know what it meant until Helene, Patti's daughter, told me. Get ready- it's bittersweet. That term of endearment comes from a German song that would have been common to hear as a child- and the main gist of it goes a little like this:
Little Hans went alone out into the wide world. Staff and hat suit him well. He is in good spirits. But his mother cries so much, for she no longer has little Hans. Look! the child changes his mind and returns quickly home.
That just about breaks my heart.

Back to the letter... This letter made me chuckle a little bit. After the tender love and worried mother letter has been written, Ella is shining her everyday Mama bit. She saw an American speaking about electricity in the air- and encourages Opa to use it! I’m really wondering what an American is doing speaking to a bunch of Germans involved in the second major war in a short time- about electric American air that isn't readily available for the refugee masses. I think Ella is hopeful because of it- in fact, maybe this American talk has given her a chance to relax because her son is in the land of opportunity. She can relax, and nag. Visit this person, give these people my regards, why the heck doesn’t Hanna write?  
I have two favorite parts of this letter, the first: “Protect against colds.” I just absolutely love how normal that is. I know as a mother myself (and someone who can even mother other fully capable adults “Put your seatbelt on!” “Wear a jacket!!”), the advice on caring for your body comes from a place of love, and likely a place of self-guilt. Take care of your body, because I sure don’t, and you deserve better. I cannot even *imagine* how Opa took this part of the letter- or the whole letter really! His second letter from his Mom, he hasn’t even arrived to his final destination yet, and she’s asking him to look up relatives/friends, and try not to catch a cold. He’s lucky if he has clean underwear.  

My second favorite part is this phrase I’ve never heard of. Our translator says that the expression “brother inside” refers to expressing your true inner feelings. I love this! I don’t know that we have an equal expression in the English language, can you think of any? This expression made me think of an exercise that I did a few years ago at the prompting of a very good friend of mine. I was struggling with... well- a lot of things. I needed to sort of clear the space and hear my own inner voice better. My friend encouraged me to listen to my “inner child”- which sounds oh-so-cliche (maybe that’s our American equivalent). But he helped me visualize myself, blonde, straight bangs and curly mess of hair (unbrushed of course). I could see myself so well, and with that clear image, I asked myself what I really wanted to do. My little self said that I wanted simply to play. I think it was honest. It was a revealing exercise. I was able to allow myself to give voice to what I was really thinking- what I really needed. A space to play, create, enjoy life. This expression Ella uses, it encourages Opa to speak to her honestly, without holding back. I doubt Opa followed this command, as I’m sure he tried to protect his mother from any unfavorable or unfortunate event or feeling. Who knows, maybe he was honest.

How lovely would it be if we all felt free and were able to speak with our inner brother or sister? I think that’s what I’m going to take away from this letter... take care of my body, and speak truth- from deep within.

Do any of you have memory of certain expressions or “lessons” that your parents/grandparents taught you that have stayed with you? Who can you share your “brother/sister inside” with?

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