Excerpt from “Erinnerungen aus meinem Leben.” Carl Heymann’ s Verlag, Berlin. 1897. Pages 8—12 (Martin has this book-MNF)
Life together with my brothers and sisters did not leave any special impression on me; I only know that no one quarreled with me as it happened among the brothers. I was a somewhat weak child, had red hair and was very ugly. This ugliness made my father feel so sorry for me that he overcame his dislike of red hair. In those days it was not in style, nor did it look “like spun gold in the sunshine” as it is now described in novels. My father protected me and told me as a consolation, (a consolation I did not appreciate because I was indifferent to my lack of beauty) “ you are ugly but in spite of that you are my jewel,” I know this and I feel it; my love of him gave me the courage to resist his tempers. Every year my father suffered from depressions for weeks, even for months. During those times he withdrew to his room; he then could not bear children’s noise. I was always permitted to go to him; he took me on his lap, forgot my age and told me about his worries. (He had many children and too small an income to take care of them.) This relationship persisted to his very end. I was his confidant, his good friend, from whom he accepted correction of his ideas, even rebuke, without getting into a rage or anger and he was a person who otherwise did not allow any contradiction. He demanded truth and nothing but the truth from his sons. “Never say anything different from what you think,” he told me very often. I followed his warning and thus gained the courage to be truthful; and because I was that way he loved me and confided in me. This way of preference gave me so to say, a center position in the family. I overcame quite a few annoyances, prevented some punishments and whenever the brothers and sisters had special wishes, I was the one to ask. My father was tall and handsome. The beautiful head with the large sparkling eyes let you sense a lively spirit. He was an idealist, was a devoted admirer of God’s alimightiness, he loved nature, observed the course of the stars, knew every tree and was an enthusiastic botanist. To be with him was a continuous lesson. In his earliest childhood he believed that only he existed as a human being: his parents, his brothers and sisters and everyone else around him were just spirits who had adopted human shapes to serve him. When they left the room he opened the door to see how they dissolved into air. Subconsciously the child sensed that every thinking human being forms a world of his own; that means that he exists independently, that he may adjust but that he will never fully merge with another person, that he can never be completely understood by someone else because the other one represents a completely different image. His strange views just like his idealistic concepts that demanded from everyone that he developed his knowledge and his higher qualities made him very strict. This, I often told him, but also that it was difficult, in fact close to impossible, to live with him. He did not contradict because he knew the negative sides of his character; he openly mentioned wrong-doings and mistakes that he had committed and he tried very hard to make up for them. He was astounding in that respect and I did not know anyone beside him who would have acted that way.
My mother was not only beautiful but she also had a mental charm and loveliness that nobody could resist. She was more of a personality than my father, she had lots of brain, knowledge and intelligence. She was musical had a beautiful alto voice and was gifted for drawing. She was also an efficient and saving housewife, very diligent and a devoted nurse to the small children. But since again and again a new baby had to be fed and nursed there was little time left for the bigger ones. We older daughters had to replace our mother in the household, we had to sew and to knit, clean the rooms, in one word, we had to help so that in this big household everything ran smoothly.