It's been 109 years since my Grandfather, Gus Bebensee and his Mother, Maria wrote this Christmas letter to her son Hans. Hans and his father Paul Gustav Bebensee had emigrated to the United States in November 1898 leaving his wife, son and two daughters behind. Unable to care for three children Maria had allowed her son Gus to go and live with her husband's sister, Pauline in Schwerin, Germany. Schwerin is a distance away from Hamburg so visiting him there was not always an option. If you can imagine being 9 years old that having your father leave for a foreign country and then also being separated from your mother then you can understand how lonely he must have felt. Only the first few sentences were written by Gus the balance of the letter was written by his mother.
This letter was translated by a Bebensee/Rebensdorf cousin who was able to read the script writing that was discontinued in 1936. The letter had been kept all these years by my family, never knowing what it said or who wrote it. Last February the letter was translated and emailed back to me. It brought great joy having something written from the heart by my Great Grandmother and finally have some sense of her. So this Christmas I'd like to share with you the Christmas of 1899.
"My Dear Brother Hans;
"I had to wait quite a long time for your letter. I understand you all feel quite well and I enjoyed your letter. I am doing well too, although sometimes we must do without things. Grete and little "syropstummel", like to eat a lot. It is very cold here now. Momma hasn't sewn too much, because everyone is cutting down on the costs - Send many greetings to Papa. The rest of the paper is for Momma. Thank goodness we all feel well. The piece of paper is nearly finished and the rest of it I have saved for Momma to write."
"I have longed to see my little Gustav again and Uncle and Aunt have always written that I could come and how pleased Gustav would be that he would jump for joy to see me. So I wrote that I would like to come and that I decided to travel. When I arrived at the station I saw my little Gustav, Uncle and Aunt Pauline. Gustav started to cry so terribly, that my heart was bursting with pain. So I thought that he was unhappy here and I asked him to tell me why. His answer was, "I have no reason to complain, Momma I always like to see you." Then we celebrated Christmas Eve and had a delicious meal and afterwards the Christmas tree was lighted and Gustav got his presents. He got a drum with screws, skittles and a suit and I myself presented a play for riding a bicycle, so we all were pretty pleased. Gustav wanted to sleep with me. In the morning little Emma joined us and the children went wild. At another holiday celebration we went to a special club where Uncle Hans was a member. There Gustav got a pencil box, exercise books and nuts. We did not get home until three o'clock. I don't want to write too much so will write to you sometime later if you have grown up. I stayed here until Gustav's birthday and then we got a letter from you. Gustav meant, please don't write to Papa if he wants to come home. I would like to see him again and he cried and I felt sorry for him, but I wouldn't show it because I started to cry too and so I started to say cheering words - hope Papa will come to see you on Easter."
"My dear Hans, I have to close my writing because the clock shows 12 already. Hope my letter will meet you well and in best health. Your little "syropstummel" now is a funny one. One night she had to dance with Grete only dressed in a night dress and when dancing her little thick legs were flying around and she started to speak too. When staying on the steps she is screaming so very loud for Grete because she feels hungry. Send many good greetings to Papa. Also greetings to Uncle Lou and Aunt Emma and the children."
I'm sure you probably can feel the pain in this letter written so many years ago those are "The Ties That Bind." Gus Bebensee never saw his father again. He emigrated to the US in 1906 at the age of 16.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and I hope "The Ties That Bind" our hearts always remain strong!
Aunt Pauline, Gus Bebensee and Uncle Hans