Anna and Rosie
Thank you very much for giving me a baby sister. Here is my new wool material to make a dress
for her. I do love Alex and Andrew and Jack but at last now I have somebody who I can play with. I know I am 7 and she is only tiny, but I am sure we will soon be good friends.
Dear Aunt Anna,
I know you are living in Chicago now, and have your own life, but you must help us. Moma is
thinking of giving the new baby away. Moma’s sister Aunt Julia can’t have any children, and she came to our house and I heard her ask Moma if she could have the baby. She said it was unfair that Mary (that’s Moma’s name you know) should have five children and that she should have none. I don’t know if you remember Aunt Julia. She is a year younger than Moma and she is married to Albert Meisch. She is pretty and sharp as a dollar. They live on the next door farm with Grandma and Grampa Suchla. Anyway, Moma said she would think about it. Please Aunt Anna, write to Pa right away, and tell him that he must say that she can’t give our new baby away.
Dear Aunt Anna,
Thank you for writing to Pa. He was so pleased to hear from you, after all these years. He was just upset with you for leaving Jamestown and getting married without telling him. He knows you are a grown woman and can look after yourself, but he felt that since he was your older brother and
had sponsored you to come to America, that you should have asked him about how you had planned to change your life. But he is not mad at you anymore. In fact, he has now said that the new baby is to be called Anna, after you, and he when he heard that Moma was thinking about giving the baby away he said, “You must be out of your mind woman.” She is such a sweet good baby. We took her to Fried in the horse drawn sled to be baptised on Sunday. We hadn’t decided on a name but on the way Pa suddenly said, “The new baby’s name will be Anna,” and his voice was all choked up. It was the most emotional thing I ever heard him say. Uncle Frank Suchla, Moma’s
brother was the godfather. He isn’t married yet and has a job drilling wells. Mrs. John Filla was godmother, again. So her penance is now over. You know, don’t you, that the priest said she had
sinned when she refused to be godmother to Alex, and her punishment was that she had to ask Moma and Pa if she could have the privilege of being godmother to their next four children. So she is done now, but Pa isn’t. And with Pa up to his usual tricks again, another new baby will probably arrive before the new year is up.
Much love from Rosie.
Dear Aunt Anna
Pa took us into Jimtown last weekend and we had picture took of the bunch of us the other day
from a fancy photograph man. Alec, who you know is their favourite, kept shutting his eyes so we had to do it over again. But once his eyes were open, it was okay, no matter what the rest of us kids
looked like. I have such a big mouth. I tried to draw my lips in so they weren’t all over, and on the first photo they were fine, but on the one they chose, my lips are a mess. I will see if we can send
you a copy.
Moma doesn’t do very well with English. She makes us learn our prayers and the Ten Commandments in Polish. And of course the priest at Fried church says the sermon in Polish too. Sometimes when the men come for confession just before Christmas or Easter, and they push each other to get to the front of the line, we hear him calling them cattle. We know that much Polish anyway.
Moma loves to sew and makes me dresses with lots of ruffles. I am pleased that now when I
get too big for them, I can save them for my new sister Anna.
Dear Aunt Anna,
Moma asked me to write to you to say congratulations on the birth of your baby Viola. We
will look forward to meeting her and hope you will come to visit us. Moma has another new baby too, but this one was a very hard birth for her. She was in labor for a very long time. The doctor had to give her the new anesthetic chloroform and Eddie was a very small baby and Moma was sick for a long time after that. Aunt Julie went and had a go at Pa again, saying he had no right to keep giving Moma babies, and that next time she might die. He said back to her, “I think the good Lord knew what he was doing when he didn’t let you have any children.” So of course now she won’t talk to him at all.
I am so much enjoying have little Anna to play with, especially now that the new baby is another boy.
Dear Aunt Anna,
Moma and Pa send their best Christmas greetings to you and Uncle Lorenz and Viola.
You will be surprised to see that I am writing this from Jamestown. We have moved here for awhile because Moma wants us kids to go to Catholic school. We rented the farm to Con Weaver. Pa didn’t want to come and he doesn’t have a job, so he sits around at home all the time, and gets in the way. Aunt Julia asked Moma, “What’s John going to do when you move into town? He’s a young fellow and you can’t put him out to pasture.” Moma said, “I am not worried about him. I’ll have the
rocking chair handy.” But if she thought Pa was going to sit and rock kids in it, she had another think coming. Moma said Pa couldn’t buy a car until us older kids got our education.
My Grandma Suchla died in August this year. She had breast cancer. Aunt Julia and Uncle
Albert will stay on the farm to help. Apparently Grampa does nothing but sit around and drink. Do you know what I remember most about Grandma? She used to comb our long straight hair by wetting it and then pt it into four tight braids – two in front and two in back. As soon as we were out of the house we undid the braids because they were so painful. Alex and Andrew said that we had better shut our eyes before the braids went in, or else afterwards we wouldn’t be able to.
Moma felt bad she couldn’t go to her own mother’s funeral, but she was busy at the time and we have another new sister now. She is called Gertrude, which is not a name I would have chosen. I wonder if we will call her Gertie or Trudie. But at least we have another girl in the family now. Anna is a very good little help to me. She is learning how to break the beans and shell the peas and shock the corn. And she loves to help me make bread. She is very quiet but very sweet.
Dear Aunt Anna,
We are still living in Jamestown. Moma thinks Pa should be using his team of horses and wagon and plough some of the neighbour’s gardens to make some extra money and have something to do. But Pa said it would not be at all suitable for a landowner such as he to do such a menial thing. So he drinks beer, chews tobacoo and plays cards, especially poker. He has a new best friend, Mr. Hamm, who runs the meat market. He belongs to the German Working Man’s Club and Pa has taken to going with him. Pa said he wasn’t ever going to play cards for money but one day Ma
was going through his pocket when she was getting his clothes ready to wash and found some extra money that she didn’t know where it had come from, so she suspected that he did play cards for money, at least sometimes. And Mr. Hamm got Pa really mad at him. One day he said, “You know John, I like you very much but there is just one thing about you that I don’t like. And that is that you are Polish.”
Grampa lost his fingers on one hand from frostbite. He had got bad drunk while at Uncle Andew's and got lost when he walked home, and didn't have gloves on or anything.
Dear Aunt Anna,
We have our new baby, another girl. Moma seems to have found out how to make girls now, so
that is a good thing. She told the other children that she found Ceal in a cabbage patch, but I am perfectly aware now of where babies come from. She has the prettiest curly hair. We have the teacher living with us now. We were all at church on the morning Ceal was born, and when we got back, the teacher was going to sit down in the rocking chair by the fire in the kitchen. But just before she put her bottom down on the chair, she noticed a bundle and that bundle was our new baby. Moma is getting fatter and more tired all the time, and Anna and I are pretty much left to do the indoors chores. Luckily Alex and Andrew and Jack are big enough to do the outside jobs to help Pa.
Eddie is still quite sickly and of course Gertie is only a baby still. Anna will be starting school in the fall. We have the local teacher living in with us this year, but I want to be the one to take Anna to school. I suppose your Viola will be going soon too. Do you have good schools in Chicago?
Dear Aunt Anna
Pa was mad at us for complaining about how we never have much money and he told us a story
about you. He said that when he left Poland he was 8 but you were only 6 and you couldn’t even walk. He says you went to live with two spinster sisters who were dressmakers in your village. But he says that they were very hard and mean and when there wasn’t anything to eat, they sent you out to beg for food. But you were ashamed to do it and would press your face into the bakery until it
closed without having the courage to go in and beg for food. At last the baking lady called you in and asked if you were hungry and you told her how you didn’t get anything to eat. So the lady said each
night you were to come when the store was closing and they would give you the leftover baked goods to take home. So now I don’t complain anymore about money or not having enough food. I think of what a hard time you had.
Pa told us that when you were grown up and finished school, you went into the fields and did farm work or helped in the barn. Sometimes you had to spend the whole day digging potatoes. So now I don’t complain anymore about the hard work I have to do either. Because you had to do a lot more
and you didn’t even have a family to help you.
Dear Aunt Anna
We are now back at the farm again. Pa found out that the man he rented it to was cheating on the stock and mishandling the place so we had to go back and Pa was pleased to do so. I managed to get my school certificate last year, and Alec got his before and went to Jamestown College for awhile. Andrew hated it when we were in town. Every chance he had he hitched a ride back to the farm. He says he doesn’t want to go to high school anyway so he doesn’t mind that he is missing out on his chance. Ma says that when the time comes, Jack and Anna will go to school at the Academy as boarders.
And of course we have yet another new baby, another girl, this one called Mary. I want to
go to become a nurse, but I can’t go just yet. Not when the baby is so tiny and Moma is so tired and can’t cope. Anna can’t manage to do everything on her own. But I do hope to go in a year or so.
Dear Aunt Anna
I am writing again this year, but have not for awhile because I have been at St. John’s Hospital in Fargo for the last few years doing nurses’ training. I am back here on the farm for awhile because Moma has had another baby. She is back into making boys now, and this new one is called
Cornelius Daniel. I think Anna had the choice of a name for him. She is very pleased to have another baby around even though it means much more work for her. She and Jack are boarders now at the Academy in Jamestown. Boys aren’t usually allowed to board but they made an exception and he earns his keep by carrying out the garbage and doing general handyman jobs and keeping the garden and grounds tidy. He plans on going to St John’s College in Minnesota when he finishes
next year. He will be the first of us to get a proper education, and it will cost Pa a packet to keep him there. But Moma says he is the brightest and deserves a chance to be something more than a farmer. Andrew loves farming, but Alec isn’t so keen, and I think he might be making a move to do something else soon too. Alec has a girlfriend called Agnes Boutch who lives on a nearby farm.
Moma is very ill. I don’t know what is wrong but she has said that Alex must come home
from the National Guard in Texas. She told Pa to send a cable to Alex. You must come home too. I am so worried that she will die. The new baby is not due for three months yet, but Moma has no energy and can’t do any work, and she finds it so hard to breathe. I heard Moma joking to Pa that the doctor said that it was all his fault. That the doctor had told him that she shouldn’t have any more children. But Moma was laughing when she said it. I am so scared. I can’t take care of Cornel and Mary by myself, and Gertie and Ceal are no use at all. Eddie is such a bother too. Please come home soon.
Now that Moma has died I must stay here and look after the children. I cannot go back to Fargo to finish my nurses’ training. Anna cannot do it on her own, she is only fifteen, and she needs to finish school and she has a year to go yet. I so much wish I could go back and do my training, but I think I must do this at least until Cornel is old enough to go to school in a few years time. I feel so bad that I didn’t get here before she died.
Moma had been ill for sometime, and being pregnant didn’t help of course. She had great difficulty in getting her breath. But she wanted to get the painting done before the cold weather and get the house ready for the new extension. They were even getting electric lights for the new part, and Moma was so excited about it. She knew that once the new baby arrived in three months time she wouldn’t get much done. She was climbing ladders and stretching to paint to the corners. Then she got bad pains in her chest, and just knew she had to go to bed. She asked Pa to get Polly Prodzinski to come and help with the children. Julia and Albert came over too. Then the doctor came.
The night before she died, she must have known it was going to happen. She had all of the kids around in her bedroom. Alex didn’t make it in time, either. But there was Andrew who is now 21, Jack 17, Anna 15, Eddie 12, Gertie, 10, Cealie, 7, Mary, 5 and Cornel 2. She took out the box of
caramels that she was going to send to Alex in Texas and each of them had a piece of that candy together – sort of like a special celebration. The next morning, Anna got up to make breakfast. Pa and the boys had gone outside to deal with the cows. Anna suddenly heard Moma cry, “Jesus, Mary, Joseph,” but when she went in the bedroom she was dead. Poor Anna. She shouldn’t have to deal with something like that. She had to call the boys and Pa in and tell them, and then go off to get the priest.
We didn’t have the funeral for a week then, until Alec managed to get back. She was kept at the farm, and laid out with candles by her, and it was sort of a week long wake. But there were loads of visitors and Anna and I kept very busy with all those people to feed. Cornel found it very upsetting, and being only two didn’t understand why his Moma was lying so still on the bed. Andrew took him out to the shed to try to calm him down, but Andrew was crying too. We buried her in Fried
Church. She was only 45. We shall miss her so much.
Pa didn’t make me stay to take care of the family. In fact after a few weeks he said,
“Shouldn’t you be getting back to your training? Those sisters aren’t going to keep your place forever?” But I asked him what would happen to the other children. He said, “Anna can take care of
them.” So I knew that I couldn’t let Anna be forced to give up her last year of school and her plans to be a teacher. I said, “I think I’ll stay home.”
Things are changing all the time. Pa says that Cornel doesn’t have to learn to say his prayers in Polish like the rest of us had to. He said, “Rose, you’d better teach him his prayers in English because a boy with no mother doesn’t have to say prayers in Polish.”
I hope to see you when you are next at home. I will be so lonely without you.