October 11, 1950 I found the diary of my girlhood journey and new life in America yesterday. I feel that the story and lesson I learned from it are priceless and should be told; therefore I am publishing this collection of deep innermost thoughts from my youth for you to read and enjoy. It is my hope that you can look at your life and realize all the things there are to be thankful for.
It seems like just yesterday I was first coming to America. I can still clearly feel the wonder and astonishment that rushed through my body that day at the sight of America. The tall buildings aligned with the horizon welcomed me to my new home. All I could manage to utter was, “There it is! This is it.”
There it stood beckoning to me, Ellis Island. It was my first stop in America. I heard all about America from my father, who had already visited once. He told me of the different clothing styles, big cities, bigger buildings, free education, and unusual foods. Soon I would experience all this on my own.
My parents’ decision to bring my sister and I to America back in 1899 was based upon bettering our lives and pure adventure. We had everything in Germany, but back then everyone wanted to be American. My sister and I could receive free education here. There wasn’t much education available in Germany at the time, and what there was cost a great deal. In America education was free.
October 18, 1900
While there, I saw no two people that looked a like. Everyone spoke different languages. It was hard to communicate with some people. Luckily, my sister, Emily, and I speak some English, and we’ll learn even more once we start school.
After the brief registration at Ellis Island, Dad took us straight to our new dwelling. I was hoping it would be spacious and clean, just like our old house, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t a house like I was used to, but what they call tenement housing. It’s a small apartment, with only two rooms. I don’t even get my own bedroom. The living arrangement is disappointing, but I won’t complain because Mom and Dad seem happy with it. Dad said that people share a tenement like this with other families, but at least we have only the four of us to live here.
October 20, 1900
First thing in the morning my family and I went to a tailor to have new clothes made. The clothes are hues of blue and gray, much brighter then the drab brown and white I am used to wearing. Dad says that these clothes are American, and we’ll all fit in better with them because no one will know we just came from Germany. I like the thought of looking American.
Dad also said that Emily and I could begin school the following week. I was truly excited after hearing that! School has always been fun for me!
November 20, 1900 I have been so busy with new friends and school! I’m making many friends here, just like I had in Germany. School is a little hard because I came half way through the year, but my teacher said that I should have no problem catching up. Dad was unable to find any work making furniture, but he found work in a shoe factory. He explained to my sister and I that he won’t be making much money, but after he saves money for a while he will open his own store. At the factory he works long hours. I don’t even see him many nights, and when I do he is tired and can’t play with my sister or I.
December 3, 1900
I heard mom and dad arguing last night. I think it has something to do with money. From what I heard we barely have enough money to eat. I’m disappointed because I haven’t gotten a new toy, doll, dress, or game in so long. I do, however, have to tell you about some of the new things that I have seen since I came to America. I know I haven’t mentioned much of them before, but listen to this. A popular toy that many children have is called a bicycle. There is a small seat to sit on and pedals that are pushed with feet that make you move. It’s so incredible! I wish I could have one.
December 20, 1900
Mom and Dad are arguing every night they are together. I am certain the fights are about money. I wish I could help. Dad works so hard, but he doesn’t make enough money to support my mom, Emily, and me. Mom offered to go to work, but Dad is against the idea. In America, many women work, but dad still dismisses the thought. January 4, 1901
Emily and I came home from school today at the usual time, but Mom was not here. I had no idea what to do. Dad wasn’t home from work, and I had no one else to tell. I was so worried. I thought that Mom ran away.
Mom came home once suppertime had passed, hair in disarray and cheeks flushed. The relief that filled my body was unbelievable.
She told Emily and I that she was working at a garment factory. Mom said she had to work to help save money for Dad’s shop. That means that his store can open soon. That is so exciting! I can’t wait to see Dad’s shop.
February 9, 1901
Dad hates the idea of mom working. He wants to support his family on his own, but it’s impossible. The only one who can’t understand that is him.
Since mom started working, I haven’t heard any more fights between Mom and Dad. That makes me feel better because I feel so afraid when they fight.
March 17, 1901
It’s my fourteenth birthday today! Dad and Mom bought me a new yellow and blue dress. It is the most beautiful dress I have ever seen! I had a few friends over to the house for cake to celebrate my birthday! I even had wax sticks with fire on top put in my cake. It was my first American birthday, and it was wonderful!
Dad and Mom are still working much of the time. They are awfully tired sometimes, but Dad says he would do anything for his girls. That makes me happy to hear. Dad and Mom save every penny possible so Dad should be able to start making furniture out of our house soon.
I don’t think of Germany very much anymore. I am having so much fun here!
May 1, 1901
I have been so busy with school and friends that I haven’t written in quite some time! There are parks in the city that my friends and I go to. We play all kinds of games there.
Dad has started making furniture in his vast spare time. He almost has his first chair completed. The chair is of the loveliest auburn color with a leaf design chiseled into the backrest. The fine details are beautiful! Dad has a grand talent with furniture making.
May 15, 1901
Dad had a buyer for the chair before it was even completed. He is currently working on his second chair. This one is of a blonde golden color with a high back. I am glad that his first chair went over so well.
Mom is still working. She said that she’d keep working until it is certain that Dad’s furniture is going over well.
School is still going great. We will finish for summer break in a few weeks. I can’t wait.
May 28, 1901
Dad is expecting to open his own furniture store in mid June. He already has a lengthy waiting list of people wanting assorted pieces! Dad has stopped working at the factory to concentrate solely on furniture.
Mom quit working at the garment factory. She is staying at home to help with the business. Everything seems to be coming together again.
June 19, 1901
I am done with school for summer break. I haven’t had much time to spend with friends because I have been busy helping dad set up his shop. It’s small, but it is just perfect for him and a few men to work in. His waiting list has remained lengthy so he has plenty of work ahead of him.
Dad and Mom said that I should attend a new school this fall. I am too old for my old school. My new school isn’t in town, but provided that the shop goes over well, I will live in a boarding house. Imagine that! I’ll be living on my own! It’s so exciting to just think about!
July 27, 1901 Dad’s shop is already famous. He forever has a list of projects to create for people. I am so glad that his shop went over well here in America.
We should be moving to a new home in a month, that is how well Dad’s store is doing! It will be more like our old house in Germany. My Mom seems especially happy about moving. I am glad that everyone’s hard work paid off.
It is definite that I will attend a new school in the fall. It’s called Hope Bur*censored*, and it is about 20 miles from home. I will stay in a boarding house. Going to a new school thrills me to death! I feel so grown up. I love America! I am so glad that we came.
October 11, 1950
My parents lived a long and prosperous life. Dad’s shop became famous in the East, and he continued making furniture for the rest of his life. Dad died at the age of 46 of a heart condition, and Mom died six moths later. The Doctors said that Mom died of unknown causes. I inherited the furniture shop from Dad, and it’s still open today.
My parents were very happy at the success of their two children. I completed school, married, and later became a writer. Emily also completed school and married. She became an English teacher. Emily died at the tender age of 24 during childbirth. I miss my family dearly.
Looking back on those months of my life when we first arrived in America, I only now realize how much I learned. I can now see how selfish and inconsiderate I was to my family. I was self-centered, but I didn’t realize it at the time. Dad was having problems supporting his family, but I was worried about not having a new dress or toy. Both of my parents made the best life possible for Emily and I with what little they had. They sacrificed the certain life they once knew in Germany to come to an unknown country with no idea what the future would hold for them, just so my sister and I could better our lives. I didn’t learn this lesson until I went to school and experienced my own struggles. I realized how hard it is to survive and support myself let alone a family. I can never show enough appreciation to my parents for what they did for Emily and I.