The No-Name Sisters

by Nancy Kopp -

Papa leaned forward and in his German-accented English said, “So Katie, have you found out about this word ‘perseverance?’ Can you tell us what it means?”

Mama and the other children leaned forward in their chairs the same way Papa had. All eyes turned to Katie, the oldest daughter, as they waited for her to enlighten them.

“It means never giving up what you have set out to do.”

Papa laughed heartily. “Then I think it is good for us all to have a little of this perseverance. Ja?”

Every head nodded in agreement with Papa. None of them ever disagreed with him, not her five older brothers, not her mama, not even Big Baby or Little Baby, her no-name sisters.

Katie wanted her sisters to have real names. Big Baby was six and Little Baby five, so they’d been without names for a long time. Once, Katie said to Papa, “In 1912 in America everyone has a name,” but he’d ignored her.

Katie loved her handsome papa. In the parlor there was a photograph taken when he lived in Germany. He wore his Prussian army uniform and sat straight and tall on a big white horse, looking like a prince.

During dessert, Katie asked a familiar question, “Papa, when are you going to name Big Baby and Little Baby?”

He gave the same answer as always. “Sometime soon I will do that. There is no hurry, Katie.” He cut another bite of the fresh gooseberry pie Mama had made and popped the forkful into his mouth. “Good pie, Mama, good pie.”

Katie took a deep breath and responded softly. “Oh, yes there is, Papa. School will start soon, and they must have a real name to go there. Miss Taylor won’t let them stay without a name.” Tears were forming in her eyes, so she blinked hard to keep them from slipping down her cheeks. Why wouldn’t Papa name her sisters?

Her brothers all laughed until Papa silenced them with a stern look. All five boys ducked their heads and continued eating to smother their laughter. Even though they remained quiet, their eyes twinkled. Hans leaned over and poked his finger in Big Baby’s cheek.

“Sometime soon,” Papa said while he patted Katie’s arm. He pushed back his chair and placed his hands on the table. “Koert, finish your pie and go hitch Jennie and Fannie to the wagon. Mama and I are going for a little ride tonight. Jennie and Fannie whispered in my ear that they like to take long walks on a fine summer night like this.” His deep laughter rang across the kitchen...

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