On Jan. 23, 1943, my uncle, Frank Ebner Gartz, (photo in uniform, above) reported to the draft board in Chicago to start his training for WWII. So began the correspondence between him and family & friends, comprising almost 300 letters going both ways. I’m posting many of these World War II letters, each on or near the 70th anniversary of its writing. To start with his induction, click HERE.

This blog began in Nov., 2010, when I posted a century-old love note from Josef Gärtz, my paternal grandfather, to Lisi (Elisabetha) Ebner, my paternal grandmother, and follows their bold decision to strike out for America.

My mom and dad were writers too, recording their lives in diaries and letters from the 1920s-the 1990s. Historical, sweet, joyful, and sad, all that life promises-- and takes away--are recorded here as it happened. It's an ongoing saga of the 20th century. To start at the very beginning, please click HERE.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Blended Family Breakthrough

This post was originally published on December 13, 2010
Maria Schuster marries Samuel Ebner May 22, 1899
recorded in the Church "Family Book" in Grosspold, Romania
Samuel Ebner, my great-grandfather, did not remain a widower for long (see how my great-grandmother died at Life and Death Abbreviated). In May 1899, he married the widow, Maria Schuster, who brought at least two daughters into the marriage, creating what we call today a “blended family.”

The bottom of the Samuel Ebner page in the "Grosspold Family Book," shown above, records the marriage. Maria Schuster (née Wagner) was thirty-two when she and Samuel married. It may have had as much to do with practicality as love. Each had suffered the loss of a spouse. Each had children to raise. Joining together made sense, but Lisi, Samuel's daughter and my grandmother, felt abandoned a second time.

She wanted her father all to herself and felt she was losing him to this unknown woman. The same dynamics that affect blended families today--children not accepting the new step-parent, resentment, parental loss still palpable--those feelings existed just as strongly 100 years ago.

A neighbor took Lisi aside, we later heard, and in trying to convince her all was for the best, whispered, “A man needs a woman.” Twelve at the time, Lisi probably missed the sexual connotation of this remark, but never forgot it.

Just like today, it probably took a lot of patience and love for Maria Schuster as the step-mom to win over Lisi, but she did--and Lisi came to love her new mother and sisters as her own. Difficult times and a strong community code that encouraged families to stay together probably helped, but I believe unconditional love was at the root of this blended family’s success.

Two new children were born to Samuel and Maria: Theresia, known as Resi, in 1900 and Johan, called Hans, in 1904.  But the sisters brought into the marriage remained a mystery--until our family trip to Romania in 2007.

Agnetha Schuster), left, my
grandmother's step-sister. Wedding photo
In searching for my great-grandfather’s house in Grosspold, Pastor Meitert met a woman he wanted to introduce us to, Elisabeth Kirschlager. We were puzzled about her connection to our family--until she produced a familiar photograph--one I had puzzled over many times in our family collection because it was unlabeled. This is the photo Elisabeth Kirschlager showed us: her grandmother’s wedding photo. As we struggled through the language barrier, it suddenly became clear: Elisabeth Kirschlager’s grandmother was one of the daughters brought into the new marriage -- and grew up side by side with my grandmother.

Elisabeth Kirschlager center
L-R Bill, Paul, Linda Gartz 2007
I spontaneously threw my arms around Elisabeth and cried. Though not related by blood, we shared a common family past through our grandmothers. It was a breakthrough in understanding the connection of family that goes beyond genes. Blended families know these bonds are as strong and true today as they were a century ago.

Next: Lisi's third mother.


Sandy Arnone said...

It's always interesting to be reminded that some problems that existed in the past, are still around today, and will be around for many generations to come. Love the photographs too.

Kristin said...

I'm glad you are reposting these because I missed them the first time around.

Linda Gartz said...

Sandy, it's true--the more we study the past, the more we understand our present. I love those photos too! And Kristin, so glad you're getting the story from the beginning. Thanks for dropping by!