For some reason during the summer of 1935 Abe had to go to Hays. He was a teacher/principal in Inman, Kansas and I suspect he needed to supplement his income. Esther and the children went to Nebraska where Esther grew up to stay with her widowed father and single sister, Lydia.
Today it is unusual to send or receive a handwritten letter. A long, chatty letter full of anecdotes, weather updates, crop news and endearments used to be the best way to keep in touch. In fact, it was the only way in the days with a phone call meant there was an emergency and the cost was prohibitive. This is why we have a remarkable letter from my grandmother to my grandfather to cherish. In it we are able to get a glimpse of Esther as a young wife and slightly stressed-out mother. The Epps were a bilingual family. Though Esther writes to Abe in English, when she quotes her children they are speaking German. I do not recall that my father ever spoke German as an adult.
- Abe had recently sent a postcard and addressed it to Harold. Maryann wanted to claim it as her own. "Meine carde" she cried. "Then they had a fight" reports Esther. Harold put it away but Maryann soon found it. "I told her that daddy would write to her too sometime," pleads Esther.
- The children have been having a good time playing on an old carriage which is by the ice house. One day they were pretending to go to Texas. Harold crawled over the top of the hayrack and got in it. This evening he had been sitting on the seat of the wagon singing. Both children have been crawling on the ice house.
- They wanted to make ice cream and had everything ready. Joel and Effie, her brother and his wife, had come over to enjoy the treat. But they couldn't find the crank. The children had played with it and must have misplaced it. Papa (Esther's father) borrowed a freezer from the neighbor so they were able to have ice cream. Papa told Harold, "No more ice cream til you find the crank."
- Harold has been so cranky this evening. He did not want to sleep with Lydia but with his mother who already has a restless Maryann who is not feeling well or sleeping yet in her bed. As soon as he falls asleep she takes him back to Lydia's bed.
- The next morning she reports about her miserable night. "Didn't sleep well." Maryann had been very restless. "She rolled and rolled and kicked me." Her nose was closed, she was itchy and asked for water several times during the night. Meanwhile Harold woke up and found himself in Lydia's bed. “In welches bett bin ich? Ich will mit mamma schalfer” (Which bed am I in? I want to sleep with Mamma.). So he got up and ran over in the dark to find his way to her bed where he slept the rest of the night. "His will power is too strong. Will be glad when daddy can tend to him again," she says.
- She gives explicit instructions of where to find Harold's dump truck ("the one he got for Xmas") when Abe goes back to Inman to pick up the car. "He says when daddy comes we must go to Inman right away because I want to play with my truck. If you bring it along then we can stay a while yet."
But this letter is far more than mother dealing with children. In between the weather reports, the sermon scriptures, and the gentle scolding of what to wear it is a love letter of the sweetest kind. From the salutation --
Mon. 7:15 p.m. July 22, 1935
My dearest beloved Abe,
Greetings with 2 Timothy 4:8.
Received your card Saturday. The one you wrote to Harold. Maryann wanted to claim it too --she said, “meine carde.” Then they had a fight. Then Harold put it away but she soon found it again. I told her that daddy would write to her too sometime.
We are all well and hope you are the same. What did you do Sunday? We were all in church in the morning. Brother Deiner had a good sermon on Matthew 26: 6-17. Engelhardts (all but Donald), Maurin Roth and Mary Polson were here for dinner. In the evening was Prayer Meeting. Next Sunday we will have Lord Supper & Feet Washing. Wish you could be here also. Hope you will just be gone one Sunday yet. Then we want to have a little vacation yet together before we go home to work. All the church people (most of them) want us to visit them when you come so we will have to make Haus Besucht -- go from one place to another.
We have one field of wheat combined. It averaged five bushels an acre and that is what John Yost’s made also. They will combine for John Salmon tomorrow.
We washed today. Had large washing. Will your washing or clean clothes hold out? Do not go dirty. I want you to be just as if I were with you and (look clean and neat) take care of you. If you need one or two shirts yet --have them washed or get a new one as you will need them this winter anyway. Do same with underwear. You were in school before and had to take care of yourself so I know you can do it by now again even if you were out of practice at first.
John Salmon helped Papa cut alfalfa this morning. Papa may cut his other wheat (12 acres) with binder so he will have own straw.
The children play on old carriage which is on north side of machine shed by ice house. The other day they were going to Texas. Harold crawls over top of hayrack and gets into it. This evening he got in wagon on the the seat and was singing. They crawl on ice house also.
Hello -- It is after ten o’clock. We wanted to make ice cream and had everything ready -- then couldn’t find crank. We looked everywhere for it around house. The children played with it and must have misplaced it. Joel & Effie were down for ice cream. Wish you could have helped us also. Papa got Yost’s freezer and had ice cream. Grandpa told Harold “no more ice cream till they find crank.”
I am in my room writing. Harold was so cranky --he didn’t want to sleep with Lydia --but sleep with me. He is on bed here and asleep now so will take him over again. Maryann is in bed too but not asleep --rolling around.
As it is bedtime will say good-nite.
Good morning -- This is Tuesday morning. It was windy here for a while during night and had little rain. Enough to settle dust and cool the air off. Didn’t sleep well. Maryann was very restless. She rolled and rolled and kicked me. Her nose was closed and seemed itchy everywhere and wanted to drink water often. I carried Harold over and put him in bed with Lydia. When he woke up in the night and asked for water. Lydia told him she would get it for him. He knew her voice Then he asked, “In welches bett bin ich? Ich will mit mamma schalfer” (Which bed am I in? I want to sleep with Mamma). So he gets up and runs over in the dark, And found the way over. So he slept.with me the rest of the night. His will power is too strong. Will be glad when daddy can tend to him again. They are both asleep yet. Maryann is in grandpa’s bed now and sleeping soundly. Papa is cultivating corn. Joel wants to cut his hay. Lydia is ironing. I did the other work in the house.
Got check from electric light company. Am sending it all to you. Also got letter from Agatha yesterday. Will send it too. John will take trip so you must go home after car. Bring Harold’s dump truck along. One he got for Xmas. It is either by sewing machine in corner or in bedroom with his other things or if not there then in front room. He wants to haul dirt and sand. He said, “When daddy comes we must go to Inman right away because I want to play with mt truck: if he brings it along then we can stay a while yet.
We want to go to Aurora this afternoon.
Must close for this time.
You are my Abe,
I’m your Esther,
You are my best companion in this wide wide world.
Are soon coming back to us
To sleep in my arms and dream sweet dreams.
And live on love.
We will think twice before parting again.
But if will of God to part us never to meet on earth again.
Then we will meet in heaven where there is no parting.
With oceans of love,
Your dearest wife & children
Come as soon as you can.