Mom's Letter

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

dead mom's words show up live on Mother's Day

"Dear Papa,” Mom reads what she has written, in German. “You often told us we were rich.”


It’s the summer of 2020. I’m lying in our hammock and Mom is sitting at our picnic table, with pen and paper. A hummingbird comes and hovers above us. We watch as it takes a sip from a red flower and zips off.


Mom looks back at her paper. “None of us ten children were missing from the table and we had enough potatoes to eat.” 


I smile. I helped her compose that line.


“Indeed, you have left us a rich inheritance,” she continues to read. “The inheritance you left us is faith.”


I nod, watching her. She sits with good posture, as always, wearing a fitted white t-shirt and cotton skirt, her typical at-home garb. 


“You told me I was pretty and that in my blue uniform I looked just like the Estonian school girls.” 


Those were the words that encouraged her back then, for going to school had been scary for her. At least she could blend in with her looks. She wanted to stay under the radar. She often accidentally on purpose forgot her communist red neckerchief. Teachers would notice her uniform was not complete. 


“Where is your red scarf?” they’d ask. “Aren’t you proud to be a Young Pioneer?” 


She hated to be in the Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization, but didn’t dare say so. 


“I forgot it,” she’d say timidly. She never liked red.


Now, in our garden, I think sadly about our current politics. 


Mom continues to read. “Today I read in Micah 6:5, ‘My people, remember your wandering, your hard journey, so that you might know how the LORD took care of you.’ Papa, that’s what you do. You remember the past and tell us how God brought you through.” 


It’s true. Opa is always telling us stories from the past. Hard stories. Stories of war, starvation, labor camps and a godless communist regime. 


“If it worked out then, when it was impossible, why shouldn’t it work out now?”


I am very familiar with that line. It’s an oft-used quote from one of Mom’s aunts. Mom turns the page. With a quick glance I see there are several pages, handwritten, front and back. She has poured many hours into writing this letter. 


This is a special letter for her father, who is turning 90. It might even be read out loud at his birthday celebration. Despite all the regulations, the family still decided to have a gathering. If the gathering only included his descendants, it would have 114 people. The rules in Germany have recently loosened to allow a gathering of this size, but with many conditions. The event must be registered, with each attendant’s personal information, and the Gesundheitskontrolle will be there to ensure safety codes are enforced. If anyone gets sick in the next two weeks, everyone who was at that event must be fully quarantined. 


I doubt her letter will be read. There will be so many people, each wanting to say something. But here is what I don’t know: In less than a year’s time, Germany’s rules will be retightened to a max gathering of 25 people. On May 9, 2021, Mother’s Day, there will be a gathering of the maximum 25 occupants. Among them will be Dad, his siblings with spouses and Mom’s siblings with spouses. Opa and Mom won’t be alive to be there. 


But Onkel Jakob will show a video of Opa in his living room, looking very much alive, proudly showing off a letter. “Das ist von Anni,” he says in the video. “See how long it is.” He smiles. Putting on his glasses, he begins to read. “Liebe Papa….” 


Submitted: May 11, 2021

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