Loss of a mother and coping with changes …
Two bright little girls [Johanna, b. 6 July 1889, and Caroline, b. 9 May 9, 1891] had been added to our family and during the Christmas vacation of 1892-1893 came a little boy. [My grandfather John H. Schaefers, b. Dec. 26, 1892, d. May 29, 1960] This ended my regular attendance at school for some time. Mother had not been very well for some time and now her condition changed for the worse. She never rallied. I was at her bedside the greater part of the time talking to her and trying to wait on her. When the doctor advised absolute quiet, one of the neighbors took the baby, another, the second youngest. The two next to me continued school-leaving just one for me to fondle. Mother grew so weak that she could no longer talk. But one day, when I was with her alone, she took my hand and spoke to me for the last time. With an effort she recommended me to the Blessed Virgin, told me to be a good girl and to take care of the others. She impressed on me her wish that we remain together even if things went hard for a while. Her eyes were closed so she knew not how thick and fast the tears were rolling down my face. I answered bravely, stifling the emotions that well-nigh smote me.
One afternoon mother grew very pale and quiet. In the evening we assembled for prayer. Then I stood on one side of the bed, papa with the others around him, knelt on the other holding the blest candle in her hand. Mother raised her left hand and dropped it and papa said, “Our mama is dead.” I went into the next room, looked at the clock and soliloquized, “This is 7:15, Thursday, January 26, 1893 and ____.” It was terrible but worse was the homesickness which followed. A neighbor lady ordered me to bring a dress for mother so I selected the one I thought she ought to wear. Probably she had designed that new black gown for just this occasion. In speaking to me she had frequently referred to death that fall.
Mother’s oldest brother [Alois “Louis” Nipp, 1861-1939] was now married and had four little children. Aunt Annie had her younger sister staying with her. During mother’s illness she kept house for us. It was now decided that I go with Aunt Annie and that Teresa [probably, Theresa Huber Drotzmann, abt. 1859-1960] stay at our house. I was relieved when Aunt Annie volunteered to take our baby, too. Rather than keep quiet, Aunt Annie’s “little ones” who would wake up when she got up during the night, I offered to take care of ours and responsibility gradually fell almost entirely upon me. I pined and yearned for somebody–something. Aunt Annie was kind but outspoken. I always loved her but could not confideevery little thing to her. She might laugh at me. Once day I had a misfortune and in my fright burst out, “The the way it goes when one is so homesick.” I hesitated a moment then rush for the door. Aunt Annie, however, caught me in time and matters were peaceably adjusted for the time being.
Next day papa and all came up. Needless to say, I was very happy. Three months had passed and though but a mile distant, I hadn’t been home neither had I seen the two little girls all that long, long while. The two next to me came to see me quite frequently. While I had always obtained information from them, I had never revealed my trouble. This short visit was over too soon. When the time came to go home, I was the first one ready and aboard. In the debate that followed I defeated every argument and, papa being the judge, the verdict was in my favor. Teresa remained and I was permitted to go in her place.
On reaching home I was beside myself with joy and grief at the same time. The rooms seemed so spacious and empty and everything seemed indescribably odd.
Next day I assumed the duties of the household, working cheerfully and diligently all the while, just running into the next room from time to time to call out, “Mamma,” in a loud, clear voice in order to hear the echo which to me was actually audible. When papa came home I ran out into the yard to meet him with my “firs loaf of bread.” He examined it, smiled and said, “That you did well.” At tabel I sat in mother’s place. The little girl next to me in age [Elizabeth, b. 1886] was only seven, a fact I did not realize in my childish ignorance. The poor little dear willingly did her part to lighten my burden and shared my joys and sorrows.
Our youngest [John, b. 1892] was in his second year when Aunt Annie was obliged to leave him with us while visiting at Parkston [South Dakota]. On returning she called for him but we could not and would not give him up. We were getting along as well as could be expected. I could not attend school regularly but did so whenever possible and always kept informed as to the class work done. The neighbors were kind and helped us out considerably. In the house I kept things clean and in good order and tenderly “mothered” and cared for the “little ones.” Besides doing my work I always found some time for play.
Thus the little episodes followed one another for three successive years. I did nicely with the ordinary housework but to replenish the wardrobe, linens and bedding was beyond a little girls. These, as well as other things needing attention, I was no longer equal to the situation.