Sunday, September 20, 2015
May 22, 1940: Beloved Birthday Boy
Letter from Ella to Opa
May 22nd, 1940
My very beloved birthday boy,
Possibly as a birthday present to you, my first student stood me up, so I have time to tell you, that I have thought of you all morning.
First I woke you up with a birthday kiss, stroked my boy over and over again, then held his hand quietly, making strong wishes for him, for all of us. I wonder if you felt any of this! I know your friends will be especially nice to you today, and also the beltline won’t be so bad. Perhaps you received Rilke’s Werke as a greeting from me, maybe also the photo.
Day before yesterday your letter of May 4th arrived, which as always as any of your letters gave me great joy. Hopefully you did not catch a cold during that, partly willing and partly unwilling bath!! Please be careful with your health, my boy. Your exams will begin tomorrow, and I do not know what will happen with you then. But you are a sensible boy and will find the correct thing for yourself and do it.
Naturallly I will calm down only when I receive detailed news from you. I am so very worried about Patti-child. If only I would hear something from her, anything!
Papa is doing better, as Diettrich said who went there and came back on Sunday. He had to stay at home for a few days, but now he is going to the office as usual. Henschenchild today I am with you all day in my thoughts, spend the whole day with you as I imagine it. The weather here is very strange, still fairly cold, then warmer, light rain, everything seems veiled somehow, kind of unreal. And so I can go through the day in a light fog, out of touch with the real world, but even more clear and intensive in my inner feelings. Henschenchild, Do you have contact with Ellenruth now? It is really not true what you write about her.
When she was here, she was very nice and attentive to me, and I think she is really the only one who is trying to help me, aside from you two. She is very busy and very capable, I have great faith in her.
I also wrote to Rose.
Did you get a reply from Hanna? I gave the last picture of your Easter trip to Ann’chen. If possible send her another picture. I read your letter to Papa to her and usually add: This letter naturally is for Ann’chen also!! That makes her happy. You can also write to her using my address to save postage.
I hope you had a beautiful day.
I kiss my boy, especially today
My favorite thing about this letter is Ella's description of the weather. She talks about it being weird and fickle, sort of unreal and "veiled." She feels sort of in a fog like the weather and will go through the day disconnected from reality and connected only to her memories and introspective thoughts on Opa's birthday.
May 22 is Opa's birthday, this letter marks his twentieth birthday, and it stuns me to think he has only now left his teens. Ella still imagines waking him and doting on him for his birthday as if he were a little boy. While Opa might be embarrassed by this intimate description of her mother's love for her son- he has to understand her need to be maternal and loving- if only in her words and imagination. She no longer has him nearby to nag or hold his hand. Her heart slowly rips with every day that she does not see or hear from her children.
She has heard from August through her sources- but not from Patti. Patti wrote to Opa about her safety, but I'm sure that news will take time to get to Ella.
I feel like every letter from Ella is asking Opa for some kind of letter that he never sends. And perhaps that is because what she really wants is to be reunited- and no letter can fill that desire. She is really banking a lot on Ellenruth- perhaps because she has more formal standing in the United States with her marriage to a citizen than Opa as a visitor/student. It sounds like Opa has toyed with the idea of getting a job and postponing school so that he is in a better position to get Ella over to the United States. Ella doesn't want this- and can't quite get over why Opa won't get in touch with Ellenruth. So Ellenruth has kind of a negative reputation with Opa and Patti. I don't know the truth, but the I get the impression that Opa did not consider Ellenruth to be a steady person who would do much to help Ella out- and that she had arrived in the United States by questionable methods. Opa is avoiding writing her or involving her- and must have given his opinion to Ella. Ella is holding strong and refusing to believe his opinion about Ellenruth. I don't know if Ella truly disagrees (very reasonable as Ella was a very kind and open person)- or if she doesn't care as much as Opa and knows that she needs all the help she can get.
It is so hard to know with these letters what everyone really thinks. Does anyone really feel the urgency of Ella's plight? I think they do- and I don't think there is anything more that they could be doing- but it seems like it's the elephant in the room that no one wants to delve into. They'll mention it- but no one says "this is happening in Berlin- and this is why Mom needs to get out."
Today as I write this the weather outside is a little bit strange, with fog this morning and cloudy skies this afternoon giving way to patches of blue and sunshine. The weather convinced me to make myself a homemade mocha and write for a bit. To think. To wonder. I hope Ella felt peace in her introspection. That she enjoyed her memories of Opa's birthdays past. I know she likely continued to worry about her kids, herself, and her world whirling around her. But perhaps in the foggy rain- she was able to disconnect for just a few moments of peace.