Autobiographical Essays

Beate Caspari-Rosen, MD (1910 - 1995)

My Father's Birthday

My father was born on January 27, 1864. He would have been 124 years old by now [This calculation indicates that the essay was written in 1988.] As a child I was always envious of my father's birth date since it coincided with the birthday of the Emperor Wilhelm II. Naturally it was a general holiday and schools were closed so that my father in his youth did not have I to go to school on his birthday. My father hated his birthday party which was always a big family affair that took place in the afternoon. We were a large familly and each birthday was celebrated with coffee and cake. My mother baked for several days in advance of the event and when the table was set it was extended so that eighteen could sit comfortably around it; a smaller table was set on the side. About 30-40 celebrants would arrive, all the uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, and nephews. My father would try to escape into his consultation room, since he had office hours from 4-6 in the afternoon, but he had to be present when coffee and cake were served and to accept his presents which he mostly disliked.

Birthdays were celebrated by everyone in this large family; never a month passed without a party, which was usually moved to the closest Sunday afternoon, and I had to attend all of them when I was a child. I was the only girl among my Berlin cousins. The boys soon revolted and were able to absent themselves. How bored I was sitting among all these adults. However, as I got older I escaped, too. Still, in retrospect, it was good to have been a part of such a close-knit family. Hitler put an end to it. My family was scattered all over the world and those who could not escape died in concentration camps.


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