We finally took down the wall that separated the kitchen from the rest of the house. We even got lucky, it wasn't a supporting wall. Ryan was really relieved, especially since he doesn't understand why that wall was such a problem for me.
I barely got to see my mom and dad during Thanksgiving and then I missed the kids opening their presents at Christmas because I was stuck in that kitchen trying to get dinner going so it would be ready by the time everyone arrived. That's when I told Ryan that I didn't care if he understood, I wasn't missing New Years because of that stupid wall.
We called the professionals and they came right out, surprisingly. That's when we tore into the wall and discovered something that surprised us all. There was a small compartment behind one of the cabinets we removed. Inside we found a metal box and, once we got it open, we found a pile of old letters that someone had hidden there long ago.
It took Ryan a little bit to get it open. When we saw all of the letters inside, we were thrown for a whirl. The letters were stacked together with the earliest ones on top. As we started to look them over some more, we realized that they dated back to WWII and a little bit before that.
Once the construction team went home for the night, Ryan and I began to carefully read the letters. The first few sounded as though they were correspondences between two friends. The sender of the letters was a man named Hans and all of the letters were addressed to a young lady named Mary.
As we continued to read, we discovered that Hans and Mary had grown up together in Germany. I seemed that at some point Mary and her family must have moved to America. Based on the dates we could tell that some of the letters were from before the war had begun and had all been written in English.
Has and his family planned to come to America, but then the war broke out. For a while, the letters continued coming. Hans told Mary about what was happening with the war back in Germany. For nearly a year, there were no letters.
Then we read this letter:
I have news. I have been recruited to join the war effort. My position in the German army is a good one and I am greatly honored.
I don't know how often I will be able to write from here on.
I must tell you how much I love you. I wasn't brave enough to tell you before but now that I have been given such an honor, I feel the need to tell you.
Forever Your Love,
Ryan and I looked at each other over the letter. The paper that sat between us on the table was a little different than the other letters had been. For one thing, it was in much worse shape. The paper was coming apart where it had been folded and there were tear stains in a few locations. Besides that, this letter did not read the same way that the others had. In previous letters, he had expressed his dislike of the things that were happening with the war as well as his fear for those who were being removed from the cities.
Ryan thought that maybe Hans believed that his letter would be read by someone other than Mary before being mailed and therefore had written what was necessary. He also speculated that Hans may not have had a choice about joining the army. I had to agree with him. It was the only thing that made sense to me.
There were only two letters remaining in the little metal box. The next one was dated months later.
I have made a remarkable ally at my current post. He assures me that he can get this letter to you without it being intercepted. I hope that that is true.
I hate what I have seen since being recruited into the army. You would be ashamed of me if you knew half of it. I never asked for this. I will never forgive myself if I do not find a way to help these people.
My ally is helping to end this evil and has asked for my help. I've agreed. Anything I can do to help. It will not erase my guilt, but it will help someone.
I meant what I said in my last letter. I love you. I will always love you. If there ever comes a time that I can be with you again, I will spend the rest of my life trying to make up for the things that I have done here. For the things I have seen done and done nothing to stop it. I will work to earn your love.
Ryan picked up the last letter, the only one still in its envelope. He carefully removed the letter. Immediately we could tell that this letter was not from Hans. The paper was thicker and instead of the beautiful scrawl that Hans' letters had been written in, this one was typed.
Miss Mary Tybon,
I am very sorry, but I must inform you that Hans is no longer with us. After I helped him send his last letter to you I knew that you would want to know.
Hans assisted me in saving the lives of nearly fifty Jewish children who had been captured by Nazi forces. During our escape, however, one of the younger children stumbled and effectively alerted the enemy. Hans went to rescue the child and was shot. He managed to make it all of the way to the point where we would meet up with others who would help us to take the children away, somewhere safe.
With the enemy in pursuit and his injury, Hans stayed behind to draw the enemy fire away from us. Because of his sacrifice, all of the children made it to the safe location we had waiting for them. He will always be remembered for this brave act.
I am very sorry for your loss,
The name at the bottom of the letter was too faded to be read. I was in tears by the end of the letter.
We donated the letters to the local museum. I will never forget those letters, and though we never did discover if Hans' brave actions were ever recognized, they will now be known by many people. Ryan and I tried to local Mary Tybon but were unable to find any information. I wonder to this day if she is still alive? If she ever fell in love with someone else? I guess I will never know.
"Tag! You're it!" Laughter fills the area, bouncing off the brick walls and the swings on the far side of the grass.
"You can't catch me!" She bolts from behind a tree, weaves through the jungle gym and lets out a holler as Jason's little fingers come within inches of her shoulder.
The sun slowly slips through the sky, making its descent toward the rooftop. It's so nice to see them playing together one last time before the move. Kaylee didn't take the news well, I can still hear her crying after we told her that daddy got a new job, but that we would have to move away. We tried to make it sound exciting; a new town, a new school, new friends, and even a place for her to take those dance classes she has always wanted. It helped until we told her that we would be moving so far away that we wouldn't even be able to visit on the weekends. Once we said that, nothing else we said mattered.
Randy runs a little too close to Jason and gets caught. Kaylee stops by the swings to catch her breath, while Jason dashes behind the slide. She always was the fastest of the three of them. Penny says that I am biased because she's my little miracle girl, and I am, but she is the fastest. Of course, Penny would never admit that her boys are anything less than perfect.
Penny and I grew up together and our kids have been best friends since they were infants. When Penny found out she was pregnant it was such a surprise, even more so when she found out she was having twins.
I remember worrying that we wouldn't be as close after her boys were born. Gregg and I had been trying to have a little one of our own for two years when Penny found out.
Not five months after the twins were born, we were overjoyed to discover that we were going to have a little one of our own. Penny and Bill brought the boys to the hospital to meet little Kaylee and they have rarely been apart since.
"You wanna swing?" The smiles on their faces are the most amazing things. I can't believe we'll be leaving in the morning. I promised Penny that I would have them cleaned up and brought over before dinner was ready and I should be getting them ready to leave, but I am having trouble bringing myself to tell them that we have to go.
"Higher!" Penny will understand if we are a little late. I let the three of them swing until the wind is chill and the schoolyard cast in twilight.
"Come on you three. We're already late." Instantly the sounds of merriment and childhood delight fades. They make their way towards me, their shoulders slouched and eyes downcast. Tonight is the last time we will see each other until Christmas. The last time we will have our Sunday dinner together. The last time the kids will go to school together or come home covered in bruises and scrapes from some wild charade. This is hard on them, what they don't know is that it is hard for me too.
Every great story means something to someone.
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