Dearest kinder Louisa,
If you have received this letter then the Phoenix has been released and through fire created rebirth.
I fear I sometimes clouded the truth in our conversations together, that in my desire to comfort I also obfuscated. Below you will find the unadorned and unadulterated truth. I hope the truth sets you free and brings to you clarity rather than pain.
Though I have never been to Germany mein Papa spoke extensively of the Vaterland, of Dachau’s beauty and Bavaria’s lush rolling hills. Papa would regale any who would listen with tales of how he and his first wife, Augusta Victoria, fled the revolution and traveled by steamer from Hamburg to New York before continuing into the frontier territory of the promised land, the land where Cousin Noah and his wife Ham lived piously within their thriving Lutheran community.
He told of the many changes a pair of seasons can bring and how from the time of receiving Noah’s letter inviting Papa and Augusta to live with them to the time of their arrival in Duluth Yellow Fever had taken both Noah and his wife Ham. How Papa and Augusta, rather than finding shelter in Minnesota, instead arrived to find Noah’s home confiscated and the proceeds of the sale used to defray costs the Wainwrights experienced in caring for my young cousins Ivy and Sairy, girls I always thought of as my aunts rather than cousins.
Papa and Augusta claimed Ivy and Sairy as their own and with neither Noah nor Ham to tie them to Duluth moved on to Fort Snelling where four years later cholera took Augusta and left Papa a widower caring for three young children. Papa managed to push through his grief and quickly married Oneida Eades, a seventeen year old widow from Mankato where Papa, Mama, Ivy, Sairy and three year old Floyd settled.
Revolution was pandemic in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century and scarcely more than a decade had passed before Germany’s violence metastasized to Papa’s new home via the War Between the States. At thirty years of age Papa would no doubt have remained a spectator rather than a participant in the war of rebellion if not for Oneida’s brothers enlisting en masse in March 1863. Of course, it is possible that his lack of the $300 required to purchase one’s way out of the draft may have influenced him as well.
Though Papa and Mama reared three children for 27 years their union bore no fruit. Mama’s barrenness caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth until, like Blessed Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, Mama found herself with child late in life. The Marktschreier-Eades household was overcome with joy.
Papa reached his fiftieth birthday four months before my April 6, 1881 birth and Mama turned forty-four thirty-three days later. My parents, in the seemingly mutually exclusive circumstance of being both experienced while simultaneously first time parents, doted on me in a way far more reminiscent of a grandchild than a son and some feel that I may have grown spoiled in their loving home.
The dawning of the Twentieth Century brought me to a score of years and, making my way in the world, I ventured from the nest to Saint Paul. My mother married early and bore children late while I did the opposite, marrying sixteen-year-old Hazel Joad, the indisputably most beautiful woman in Minnesota, one day after my thirty-sixth birthday. Hazel gave birth to our perfectly formed son Joad May 9, 1918 and later a daughter Dreux she never lived to see.
At thirty-six years of age I, like my father fifty-five years earlier, had no intention of enlisting in the army but unlike Papa it was conscription rather than peer pressure that set my course. Safely nestled between two mighty oceans the United States had one of the smallest standing armies of any world power when the Great War broke out. The need to create a fighting force brought a resumption of selective service and just as the Atlantic and Pacific provided protection for the United States my 36 years protected me from the compulsive service to which able bodied men between ages 18 through 30 were subject.
Alas, just as two great oceans’ isolation was a mere mirage of protection so too proved my seven year buffer of advanced age. With war’s never ending need for human fodder the upper age for conscription rose from a robust thirty to a doddering forty-five. Meanwhile, Germany revamped her upper age limit to 51.
I reported for six weeks of Basic Training at the newly established Thomas E. Selfridge Field September 26, 1918 and had barely set foot in France before the armistice ending hostilities was agreed to. I was back home in Saint Paul nearly a week before Hazel gave birth to Dreux on June 28, 1919, the deformity that killed my beloved. Widowed and saddled with a perfect son and a hideous creature I could not bear to call daughter I poured my love into Joad and neglected his sister Dreux, a course of action that led to the downfall of us all.
I blamed Dreux for Hazel’s death and in my blame I poisoned both of my kinder. Love, which multiplies when freely given, was restricted to son Joad, a boy born beautiful but whose spirit I warped through my malfeasant ministrations. Joad, following the example set by me, found Dreux contemptible and, like me, was eager to rid our home of her, a tantalizing temptation dangled before us by Ringmaster Flip.
Flip, the man so quick to proclaim his lack of evil, drove Joad over the edge with his praise of Dreux and in a fit of jealousy he immolated his sister along with any hopes for his or my future. I bought Flip’s silence with my indenture, an indenture I will not allow to happen to you.
If this letter is in your grasp then you have escaped the Phoenix’s flames. I pray young Matthew was likewise spared.
The flames ignite, the flames renew, I pray they free as I join Dreux.
aka Bebee The Clown