This little Valentine has no date and no signature. So I had put it aside, only to rediscover it just last week! I was able to read the strange writing better after a year of practice, and when I translated the sweet greeting in the first part, I realized it was a century-old Valentine. I scanned it and immediately sent to my “Rosetta Stone” in Germany to decipher the parts I couldn’t read. Now I’ve got it! I’ve deduced it was included in the January 29th letter that Josef Gartz (my grandfather) wrote to Lisi Ebner (my grandmother), along with Frau Beer’s note. (See previous post, Love Finds a Way,) because Lisi begins her letter with a response to the Valentine note—as well as a veiled reference to her annoyance with hearing from Frau Beer.
The note on the Valentine reads:
Forget me not
You sweet heart
Greetings and kisses
What I write is only for you to read—not for others. No other person should see it. I kiss your hand [also idiomatic, “with pleasure,” a gentile expression of the time.]
Lisi writes back to her Valentine, Sepp (nickname for Josef, like “Joe”) the very next day:
February 12, 1911
On Saturday at 3:00 pm, February 11th, I received the two letters, the 2nd from E[va].
You write to me that I alone should read your writing. That no other person should see it. I am entirely alone, and will be for the time being. Laughing and talking are in the past.
But now I am joyful and moved to laughter when I read the news from you—“From You” [She emphasizes that she wants to hear from him—not Frau Beer], when I hear that it goes well for you. Just recently I had lost courage and my mind went back and forth because I always heard that it was going poorly [in America] for all of you. I also received a letter from my sister on February 7th in which she told me that that there was no more work and that she would come back here. [Lisi’s stepsister, Maria had gone to America before Josef did and also helped him settle in.]
But oh how I smiled when I heard…how satisfied and happy you are. What joy I felt!
Today I was at home where I occupied myself with thoughts of you, rested and didn’t do a lot. I fantasized about your letter, how you explained your trip, and I wondered if it’s only a short time until my path is free [to come to you?] Now I just don’t know what I should do.
It’s clear to me and eases my mind that our dear God turns our destiny, at times giving us sadness and heavy burdens, but then again makes the sun shine. I believe that more opportunities arise over there [America] and it would be better than here. Also our dear God gives you the chance to reach your desires.
I thought to myself that you would stay there one year (or two years at the most). Perhaps you would have enough earnings that you would come and get me. Then I would leave immediately and have no fear at all, no lack of courage, because I would leave with [you and] your protection. How I would go there myself I don’t know.
The signature is missing, but my guess is it was signed “with Greetings and Kisses.”
I can imagine Lisi’s trepidation at the idea of undertaking the arduous, frightening journey to America alone. She hopes Josef will come to get her after a year or two. Naturally, she would feel safer traveling with him. But he had already left his home town once without proper papers, and knowing his impatient and determined nature, he won’t want to wait a year or two for his love to join him. I’ll be sharing future postcards and letters, each of which contains an amazing discovery or coincidence, and foreshadows their future together.