To Be Honest
Episodes and Happenings
|click above to view a larger version of the book cover|
Extracts from Márta's Diary, translated from the original Hungarian:
1921 February 20. At last you assure us you belong to the female species: you are talking constantly. In the last weeks you learned a lot of new words. I noticed those words we taught you before come harder to say now, than the ones you are learning alone... You already can count and if I ask you how much one and one is you say two, or even five and five, ten. Sometimes you get a little mixed up, but that doesn't count yet. At seventeen months old we think you are doing fine. Wonder when you are seventeen years old if you will understand what five times five means? You like singing and dancing, have a few favorite songs, and even now you ask me to sing one of them to you. I tried to sing a different one, but you stop me every time, till I sing the one you asked me to.
If we are busy and can't play with you, you climb up everywhere or turn your buggy over till some of us notice what you are doing. You can open doors all by yourself and go out and close the door after you by the knob. Then you start in there doing everything you shouldn't. Want to wash dishes or clothes or mix cookies, whatever anyone's doing you want to do it too. You carried the coffee pot already to Mommy, then a bottle of bluing which naturally was spilled over your dress. You are everywhere you shouldn't be. The only thing you are very much afraid of is the stove. When you were six months old and you were crawling on the floor I took you close to it and let you touch it very lightly. Ever since that happened, you are making wide circles around it, which was exactly what I aimed to have you do. I did the same with the cigarettes also, because you always wanted to touch them.
The most interesting thing is, you never cry when you fall, although it happens a lot. Mostly you cry when you are mad for some reason, you do have a temper. But you are sensitive too, when we play and I hit you hard you just laugh, but if I am sore at you for some reason and spank you just a wee bit, you cry like you never could stop. But when you do something you know is wrong, you come to me and turn your back saying "Spank?" I never can spank you then, you are so sweet I just kiss you. So far you called yourself "Buba," but tonight your Aunt Fáni asked who do you like best, and you promptly said "Mata." Another new word in your vocabulary. You will think I am silly to write all this down, but everything you do or say fills me with happiness, and maybe sometime you will enjoy to read it and see what kind of a baby you were. [József]
[Photo: Matild with Márta]
1921 March 29. The photo on the next page was a surprise, you Mother had it done for my birthday. You can imagine how happy I was to get it. Now we will have to have one soon of the three of us too...
One evening I was counting the day's receipts and you say it and said "Lots of money." You like money too, once we were walking and you saw some oranges in a store window. You stopped and hugged my knees and asked for money to buy oranges. Eighteen months old and already you snatched an apple. Your Aunt Milli took you shopping and while she was facing different direction from you, you took the apple and took a big bite out of it. It's quite early in life to start taking things, don't you think? You don't eat very well lately, I think teething is to blame. In front all your teeth show, but molars are hard on you.
My dear little girl, we sure are neglecting you lately. But believe me we can't help it, we have a lot to do as we are having out season.* Sometime Mother and I can only see you at noon and suppertime. You are so happy when we get home, you hug and kiss us and can't let go, don't know what to do with us first. It worries me at times that at least Mother can't stay home with you my dearest. But we have to work and think for the future too. My dear little girl, these are hard times, you start your life in these difficult times, have to go without some luxury which you could have in ordinary times. It is hard to go to our shop and leave you at home, sometimes you cry so hard, you want to go bye-bye with us, and we can't take you. Don't worry my darling little girl, there will come a time when we won't have to do it anymore, then you will be compensated for everything. [József]
1921 April 2. It isn't so long since I wrote in your book, but your progress in vocabulary is so remarkable I just have to note it. You understand every single thing spoken to you, and answer in full sentences. I told you, "Márta, don't be naughty," you answer, "Get spanking?" When you see me wind my watch, you say, "Tick-tock watch on my neck?" I can't even list all the words you can say, even asking for two lumps of sugar in your milk, and can count to ten. I am sorry to tell, as young as you are you already show nervousness. You leave one plaything and start another, even when you talk sometimes it shows you are nervous. You love to play with your little pillow, always carrying it around and kissing it sometimes. The next time you spank it or try to bite it, then get mad all of a sudden and throw it far away from you, which all shows your nervousness. Soon you ask for it to be given to you to play with.
Sometimes you are hardheaded, or stubborn is the right word for it. I am trying to correct it if possible because I am afraid it is in the family, you probably inherited it from me, I am stubborn too, and according to my experience you will have lots of trouble because of that, and I'd rather you didn't have it, my dear. You respect me very much without being afraid of me. Whenever you are crying, I only have to look at you and you stop it. You have lots of good traits and when you grow a bit older and can understand better, I am sure you will be a very good little girl, with proper guidance and love, to make sure you see what is right and wrong.
Everything you have [when] someone asks for it, willingly you give it up. If this will cause you in later life some disappointment, don't mind it dear, be glad to share your things if have more than some of them. You love cleanliness too, every speck has to be removed each time your hand gets soiled, and when I come home from work you look me over and if you see my hand has a dark spot you pull me to the washbowl and say "wash." Now I will say bye-bye for awhile, till some new and nice thing happens to write in again. [József]
1921 April 15. I can write again about you, there isn't a word you can't repeat after only one hearing. Lots of short stories and poems I used to tell you, and now when I say them, you help me out. Some of them you even can tell with very little help from me, in places. Your Aunt Fáni loves to sing, she has a good voice too. You enjoy it very much and you learn it from her. There is one song you learned and are singing it all by yourself now. That is the kind of a girl you are, talk all day long, now that it is easier for you to imitate everything you hear. If you are mad at someone for something, you say "stupid" and hit her or him. That is why I have to be a bit strict with you, which makes you respect me more. Any other person is stupid, and gets spanked by you.... [József]
[Photo: Matild standing, József sitting beside her with Márta on his lap]
1921 April 23. Well, dear, our first family portrait is made. When you will see how many pictures we took of you in eighteen months of your life, you will think your parents were extravagant. It may be right, but this is your Dad's only costly hobby and I wouldn't give it up for anything. I like to have them all through the years, so I could always look back and be able to reminisce, and maybe wish the long-past years back. But now that you are growing up, we will have just birthday portraits of you, and some home made snapshots to keep up the record of your progress. Well, how do you like it? Your lovely rosebud lips were worthwhile to have for posterity, don't you think? [József]
1921 April 30. My darling little girl, how sweet you are, I can hardly express it with words. But you can feel it when I hug you sometimes too hard to my breast, and you laughingly say, "Mommy you silly." Your best place to sit is in front of the vanity, so I sit down with you there and play csipi csóka. It is a game, I pinch your hand on top and you pinch mine, and when the short ditty is over we spank each other's hand. Naturally you like best when we get to the spanking part. Your Daddy says you will be just like me, I used to like to play spanking a lot, but all in fun and plat. But now since I am a mother, it doesn't look dignified to be too playful except with you.
My darling baby, wonder if you will laugh when you read these lines years and years later when you will read all these little things we jotted down? But everything is very dear to our heart, and we are hoping when you read them it will make you happy too. When you could read between the lines how much we love you. Both your Dad and I love you more than we can tell, and all our hope is to see you grow up healthy and a very happy person. Today was the first you said "Kiss your hand," but anyhow there isn't a word that you can't repeat although sometimes no one else but Dad and I can understand it. [Matild]
[Eight photos of Márta]
1921 May 29. These last few days I made several snapshots of you. I can tell you it was a chore, you just can't stand still for a second. I tried to bribe you with candy; if I showed it, you fidgeted for wanting it; and when I gave it to you, it was more important to eat it than to pose. Naturally your Dad is just as much to blame, but for once it is more simple to blame it all on you. Too bad it will be all faded out by the time you will see them, but I hope it will remain clear enough to see how sweet and pretty you were. Got tired by the eighth snapshot and were crying, but said with tears in your eyes, "Mata won't cry," and that's how I snapped you here.
Mártuka in these hard times you are the only thing in the world who can give me some pleasure out of life. You passed twenty months old, and can say every word. Yesterday you asked [me] to give you a book; when I gave it to you and asked where are you going? you answered "to school." What do you study? you said "algebra." You have a good memory, anything you hear once, you can remember it. Love to learn poems and you do know several and say them all the time. I bought you a picture book which you like a lot. Now when you see the pictures you start to tell the story or verse under it. If you see a picture about things you have too, right away you say "Mata has a ball," or a little bed too. I couldn't even tell anymore all the things you can say, but sometimes you say things so humorous we all start laughing. [József]
1921 June 16. Nothing new to say, except the sentences you mix up when you say something. I am telling you to come to Daddy, you say "I am busy, not go to Daddy." Then said, "Mommy buy red ribbon to Mártuka." You can say everything, just the sentence is put together every which way... and then even you are laughing about it. You have a toy jack-in-the-box which we call Paprikajancsi.† You try to say it but can't pronounce it right except Paprika—but the "junchy" comes out "jutchny" and you don't like that at all. No matter how many times you try it, it just never sounds right to your ears. I noticed you dream when you take a nap. The other day from a sound sleep you woke suddenly, sat up and called "Daddy, Daddy." I picked you up and held you in my arms and you said, "Teddy Bear don't hurt Mártuka." Till you were one year old you loved animals, but for some reason you are afraid of them now.
My darling baby, I have to excuse myself here for being so strict with you. I mentioned several times how much you respect me but I am afraid sometimes you are even afraid of me, although you have no cause for that. When you cry, I ask, "Does Dad like it when you cry?" Then no matter how hard you are crying, with tears streaming down your tiny face you start out laughing and crying at the same time. My dear little girl I am so sorry for you when I see that, I could cry with you. But someone must be strict or you would be too spoiled for words. When some friends offer you something to eat, you won't take it till you look at me. If I nod, you take it, and say "Daddy let me." I am the only one in the family who can hold you in line. You could twist your Mother and everybody else around your little finger. If you feel in the mood, the two of us start to play by the hour, then you seem to forget all about me looking at you very sternly sometimes, you just climb up on my lap, hug and kiss me and say, "I love you Daddy." I am really sorry lots of times, but it is my sincere belief I am doing a lot of good to be strict and make you mind me. This way you learn to keep your temper in check. It hurts me when I see you are afraid and run from me if you do wrong. If you only knew my sweet little daughter how much I love you, and what a joy you are to me always, you never would run from me even if you think I look at you sternly. I do love you more than I ever could show or tell you. But if no one will be stern with you, no telling what you would grow up to be. Mommy can't be strict, she lets you do whatever you like, she never scolds you or spanks you, just loves you as you are.
When I come home at noon you run to me, hug my legs and want to kiss me and tell me that Mártuka played. Mommy tells what you did play at, going out to the kitchen and mixing up everything you can reach, dishes, water, food, everything. But the maids don't mind, they love you too much... Anyway you are 83 centimeters high, sweetypie of a daughter, and I love you. [József]
1921 July 15. It is worthwhile to jot down this little episode that happened today: you hit your Uncle Jani hard, and I saw it and said after I spanked your hand, where did you learn such things? You promptly answered, "In school." I couldn't look stern or you cry longer after that, I had to laugh out loud, it was so surprising. It is interesting to hear people telling us you were not pretty before, but you are now. For us you always were pretty. Your mouth is well-formed and sweet, your eyes are lovely dark and large and your complexion is what they call rose-petal. It must be true because when I take you for a stroll everybody stops to tell me what a lovely little girl I have. Which makes me a very proud papa. But to me it is more important that you are an exceptionally bright child, you learn everything very easily except you have no ear yet for music. All the songs you learn quickly, but you have no melody, it all sounds the same, but you seem to enjoy them just the same although other kids your age can sing better. I aim to start teaching you the violin starting at five years old. But that is a long way off yet, and by the time I am sure your ear will be better for the music.
Your favorite soup is cherry soup so far. Next week we will take you for a long trip to Budapest, your Grandma Ehrlich lives there, and she never saw you yet. Wonder how you'll react to travel on the train and to all the new things you will see and hear? We are not taking this book along with us for fear they will take it from us at the border. You see, Márta, B.Pest is in a different country now since the war ended; our part where we live belongs to Romania, and Budapest is still Hungarian. When we cross the border everything has to go through customs inspection, all reading material is taken away to see no important documents are among them. I wouldn't for all the world want to give up this book of yours. [József]
1921 July 16. First time today we took you to the show,‡ I proudly can say you were behaving like a little lady all through the picture. You enjoyed the part most when there was a fight, and whenever someone went out a door you hollered "bye-bye." There was kissing in it too, then you said "How many kisses?" When the man went to bed, you said "He's very sleepy." So this was your first show. [Matild]
1921 July 20. Tomorrow we will leave for Budapest. Wonder what your Grandma will say when she'll see you first? I was telling you stories about our impending trip and about the trains; you liked best of all to hear about the whistle of the train and you tried to imitate it. As I said before, we'll leave your book at home, I would hate to lose it. [József]
1921 August 2. July 31 was the day we got back from our trip. You were such a good little girl all the way, although it was an all-day travel, you slept most of the time and when awake you liked to look out the window. But in the city it was a different story, you were very cranky and restless all the time. But I think the intense hear made you that way, we suffered a lot from it too. And the strange surroundings and people did have a lot to add to your discomfort, it was a heat wave all right. But you liked your grandmother and she adored you. She gave you lots of toys, some little furniture very old but perfect, some toys that once we played with as children, and brought back memories of my little sister Eszter who died very young. One day Grandma offered some apple to you, but you didn't take it, saying "Daddy don't want me to take apple," but you wanted it anyhow, so you told her, "Please put it in my lap." After she did that, you picked it up and ate it. So my smart little girl can help herself, and I don't need to worry what would you do if an emergency arises in your young life. [József]
1921 September 10. It's quite a long time since I wrote in this book but I am hoarding it so I could write more on your second birthday about what a little imp you are. Over a week ago you had an unpleasant illness, a mouth infection which seems contagious, lots of other children have it. But thank heaven you are all right now, but it was not easy to get rid of it. We had to paint inside your mouth several times daily with iodine, which was a bit harsh treatment for a baby your age. We were terribly sorry to do it, you were so afraid of it but we had to in order to make you well again. We both, Mother and I, wanted the other to do it because we were so chicken-hearted and didn't want to see you suffer while doing it.
The worst thing was that you ran a temperature and couldn't eat solids, just liquids. You lost some weight and got terribly cranky and naughty; you cried a lot and got cross easily. Even at me sometimes, and told me "Go away, I don't like you," and to everyone else who went close to you, you were hollering "Go away you stupid ugly thing 'cause I don't like you." I had to spank you for saying things like that, even though I felt sorry for you. But I couldn't let you continue such language if I wanted you to be the nice lovable little girl you were before you got sick. Once after a spanking you came to me crying hard, but hugged my neck and said, "Please Daddy don't spank me anymore, it hurt so." Believe me darling I can cry with you when it happens, but sometimes you are getting out of hand. And even if I spank you now and then, I have to because I don't want you to grow up a problem child, and I love you the more for it. [József]
1921 September 11. My dear sweetheart, today's the first time you want to a real theater with me, to see "Red Riding Hood," and I was very well satisfied with you there. You enjoyed the story, even made comments on some parts, saying "Mata not afraid of the old witch."§ And you clapped your hands every time the curtains went down. When we got home you started to tell Daddy the story what you saw, with your eyes wide and your arms uplifted and closed too sometimes; you were so cute and sweet while you told the highlights of the show, we could just eat you up. Now you are disturbing Mommy, you're shaking my arm and saying, "It is Mata's book, when Mommy through Mata write too." You are a very sweet little tot, honey, and your Mommy loves you a lot. [Matild]
1921 September 27. We have celebrated your second birthday which is always a holiday for us. Two years is a long time, but it flew just the same. My only prayer is that all the coming years would be as sweet and nice for us as these two years were. Which we could thank you for, my dear little daughter. We went through a lot in those two years, but even then, we loved it because of you my dear baby. Just to watch your dear little face light up when you were happy for something, and to see you develop day by day, made us forget our troubles. You made us very happy, Mártuka. We will try to give you a picture what kind of a child you were: in this book we will try to write down as close as we can, episodes and happenings we think will interest you when you are older and can read it for yourself.
In a few days your birthday picture will be ready so you can see how sweet you were at two years old... Your hair is a very light brown, naturally curls up at the ends, but a bit thin yet. Your eyes start to look more like your Mommy's eyes, very dark brown and very nice indeed. You are very mischievous, a regular little imp, but in a nice way. Sometimes I have to spank you, which believe me honey hurts me more than it hurts you. Once I had to tie you to the leg of the table with a string of thread because you always were out at the neighbors, which I don't want you to do. Naturally you don't like that, but it had to be done to keep you at home. You have a strong will, and are quite stubborn at times, which I hope will change in time.
Now you can say everything already. Just to show you what a little imp you really are, here are a few things you said. You always like to climb up on chairs, and once I got scared and said to you, "Oh, you'll fall down, honey," which you answered, "I won't fall down, honey." When I said, "I won't give you any cake," you said "I don't want any." Then you said, "Oh Daddy, the ducks are barking." And to your nursemaid you told, "Don't pick your nose." When you got sore at her the other day, you told her, "I will spank you, honestly, and will tell your mother on you." Then you asked me "What are you playing on the violin?" I answered H minor, you said "What H minor?" Then you asked your Mommy "How much is one times one?" When I lit a match, you tried to blow it out. Once I did the blowing out, but you said you did and insisted if Mata said she blew it out, then she did blow it out. One night we came home from a walk kind of late, the moon was up and you asked, "Daddy, what is that?" and I told you, then we rounded a corner, and you happily said, "There is another moon, Daddy." You were evidently thinking about it, because after a few seconds you told me, "A candle is lit up in the moon."
From a two-year-old baby that's pretty good, and it isn't just conversation always; you think things out by yourself too. For instance, you said, "We went to bed yesterday and we are going to bed today too." You love to sing, quite off tune too, but no one cares about that. You learn lots of songs, especially from the maids, but sometimes you sing a melody and make up the verse for it as you sing. When you are very happy, you even talk to us singing, just as in an opera. You love to play dolls, but not with a real dolly; you take a piece of wood or stick and you dress it up or cover it with a blanket, and sing to it hugging it close to you. Then you really love to hear stories, any kind, just as long as it is a story. But your favorite ones are "Little Red Riding Hood," "The Seven Dwarfs," and "Jack and the Beanstalk." [József]
[Same day] My sweet little darling, this is the most joyous day of our life. Your Daddy and Mommy are terribly happy to reach this day, your second birthday. Everybody was nice to you, and you got lots of presents. Your Aunt Fáni bought you a doll, Aunt Milli a toy dish, your little cousin Bébi some chocolate cake slices, which you like very much. Even the neighbors brought you all sorts of good things, chocolate and candy. One girl came over with a box of candy. It was funny, you didn't want to say hello to her, but when she showed what she got for you, then you didn't just say hello, but even kissed her. You don't know my dearest baby how much everyone loves you. The whole neighborhood thinks you are cute and sweet. We both are so proud of you and no word could express how much we love you. My only wish on this day is that you will be happy for the rest of your life. Lovingly, your Mother. [Matild]
[Birthday photo: Márta with an enormous bow in her hair]
1921 December 8. It is a long time since I wrote last, but there was nothing much to record as we are so used to hearing you talk a mile a minute, so now we only hear it when you say some cute words. You learned words from the maids, [words] we don't like, scolding words mostly. Sometimes we hear you tell them, "Oh you stupid monkey, I will slap your face till you'll cry!" For this you get spanked, and you don't like that and try not to say it anymore, but sometimes it just happens again and you get scared and look at us [wondering] what will happen. We both are trying very hard to make you see how bad it is to say things like that, and I am sure when you are a little older you won't do it even when you get temperamental, as you are so many times now. You have a very good mind, and learn very easily. Only once you hear a poem or a song and you can repeat it. Your singing is still very much out of tune, but that doesn't bother anyone, especially you, and you keep singing just the same.
I am teaching you now the times table up to thirty, and you can say it every which way already; it happened you embarrassed your Aunt Ili with it, and she is six years older than you are. Today I showed you how to write the number 1, and you did it right away alone, but I think because you liked the sound of the way I said "up and down" while you did it. You are asking questions all the time. For instance: "Daddy, why do we have to go to bed?" I answer, "So we can sleep." "Why do we have to sleep?" "Because we are sleepy." "Why are we sleepy?" And so on all the time. I tried to answer all your questions, but it seemed you never will get tired of asking, so I just walked away from you. You're even stopping people to ask their names. You talk very plainly now, only the R doesn't come out plain yet. When you start to say something you talk very fast, which if it persists I will have to slow you down. If anyone else talks fast, right away you tell them, "Not so fast—not so fast."
The kitchen is the best-liked place for you, there you love to be and naturally you are in everything, and if anyone tells you to leave it, they have a hard time making you do it. But we have to keep you out as you break a lot of glasses and small dishes. And when laundry day comes, you are there too to help wash. But now I will let your Mommy write more of your escapades. [József]
1921 December 26. Sure I will do it, my sweet. I have to tell that St. Nicholas was here already. You were waiting for him anxiously because when you were naughty we told you he will bring you some switches, but if you are good then you will get some nice things. Before you went to bed, you had to shine up your shoes to put them on the windowsill to be filled. Dad gave them back to you several times, saying they weren't shiny enough, and you were so serious when you took them to make them look shinier. When they were very nice you put them on the windowsill hoping St. Nick would be good to you, asking for a doll and for some chocolate.
You woke very early next morning, and the first thing was, "Did St. Nick come?" Dad picked you up and took you to the window to see. I can't describe the joy in your eyes and face, my dead baby, when you saw in one shoe a big clown with a bell on his long cap, and in the other shoe the chocolate. Your Aunt Fáni fixed up a little basket with lots of nice things; when you saw it you clapped your hands and said "How pretty." You were such a darling when you said that we almost smothered you with hugs and kisses. You like your clown very much, carry it around with you all day long. That is the best thing in you, my darling, that no matter how small a present you get it makes you very happy every time. [Matild]
[Photos: Márta with her clown, and with four other children in a sleigh in the snow]
1922 January 8. I was trying to take some snapshots of you. I thought that would be the best way to show you later what kind of baby you were. But sorry to say they didn't come out good. It isn't your fault, my dear, you stood very nice and quiet this time. Even if they aren't good I am going to put them in your book, you might be able to see them yet... In the picture in the middle you are holding your clown, which you don't want to put down for a second. One evening we came in from a walk with you, and when we stepped in the doorway you started to cry with big tears. When I asked "What's wrong?" you pointed at the table where your clown was, and said, "I forgot to take my Jancsi for a walk with me." You were crying and kissing him for a long time after that, saying, "Sorry, I forgot to take you Jancsika, but I won't do it anymore." You love to play with dolls and go to sleep with them if we don't watch out. You like to wash things out, and also to draw on paper.
Tonight we were sitting in the kitchen, all of a sudden you asked me, "Please Daddy, go in the other room." I asked why? You just wanted me to go out, but when I insisted on knowing why, you told me you wanted to wash dishes with Zsuzsi, the maid. You were very happy when I told you, "All right, you can wash." Then you like next to draw pictures, any kind, as long as you can hold a pencil. Here are the things you draw, you call them "palika," and you can make a number 1 very nicely. [Followed by a page of Márta's "drawings"]
When you finished drawing, you said "It is all done." But you were pouting when I didn't let you draw all over the book. I made you very happy when I bought you your first toothbrush; every half hour you went to brush your teeth, and all of a sudden you started sweeping the floor with it. The other day you had a bright saying which no one taught you to say: to the maid you said, "Berta—you are very pretty, but a little bit dumb."
Your only bad habit is to climb up on chairs and from them to the table. Our constant fear is that sometime you might fall and break your bones. You did fall several times but so far we are lucky you didn't hurt yourself much. The worst thing is that you must be spanked for it, and you are very much afraid of spanking, but we hope to make you realize we don't like you to climb on things. Yesterday you did climb up on the chair and fall off again. You knew spanking will follow that, but you were a little smarty, though you hurt yourself. You said, "Daddy, I didn't fall, I just climbed down," so I had nothing to spank you for. Now when you fall you get up quickly and say, "Playing soldier." You say it so you shouldn't be spanked, and try to smile it off.
I think you are a bit afraid of me, I only have to look at you when you're doing wrong and you are scared. If only you knew, my darling, even though I look sternly, how much I love you. But I can't tell you now, you'll have to find that out when you are older and will read this book yourself. [József]
Proceed to Chapter 6 of To Be Honest
Return to Top
* Easter bonnets, etc.
† Hungarian equivalent of Punch
§ Either a mistranslation of "the old wolf," or perhaps the witch strayed in from a production of Hansel and Gretel
Last updated August 22, 2009
Return to the TO BE HONEST Index Page
Return to the Skeeter Kitefly Website
Copyright © 1986, 2003-2009 by P. S. Ehrlich; All Rights Reserved.