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245 52 The year 1927 has begun. Wilhelm has repainted and wallpapered the two rooms of the flat. A crib with soft pillows is standing ready. Maria is still carrying her baby. They are very close, although they do not know each other yet. On 13 February, a Sunday morning, Maria gives birth to a daughter in the bedroom. With a pounding heart, Wilhelm gazes in wonder at the freshly bathed, naked child that Dr. Antoine places right in the middle of the kitchen table. As the weeks go by, Maria feels healthy and refreshed. The winter sun filters through the net curtains into Maria’s flat. In the bedroom, there is frost around the edges of the windowpanes. It is Sunday. The announcement of the birth of Wilhelm and Maria’s daughter, Maria Alexandrine. Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 245 4/26/2017 12:17:50 PM 246 Maria Wallisfurth Wilhelm is out visiting customers, and Maria is working in the kitchen. The baby girl, who they have named Maria, after her mother, is asleep in her crib, fed and clean. Maria tends to her with care and delight. She smiles and softly speaks to the child. Maria treads lightly, handles everything she has to move with care so as not to make a noise, although she does not know yet whether her child can hear. Every day, friends and relatives come to see the new addition to the family. Everyone is careful not to wake her. Everyone, including Maria, is afraid of discovering the truth. Is it too soon to find out? Maria’s mind is restless. Often, when she is alone, she broods over her baby. Is the baby like herself? If the baby can hear, she will be different than her, and live in a different world. Should she, as her mother, not be able to sense it? She wants to know! The baby cries, drinks, and sleeps like any other baby. Where will the child belong in the end? Maria tackles her anxiety bravely. Isn’t her baby sweet, even if it should turn out that little Maria can’t hear? A moment ago she held her in her arms, washed her tiny soft body in the tub, changed her, and gently brushed her silky hair. Everything looks healthy and normal—the tiny hands and feet, the little nose and mouth— and what cute little ears! Maria can hardly believe that she gave birth to this perfect child! Wilhelm and Maria, made into one—and there she is! Maria’s happiness would be complete if only the little ears can hear.There’s nothing to be seen. Maria can only wait. After singing in the choir at High Mass, Josef Hahnengress always comes around on Sundays to say hello. He is always in a good mood; he makes jokes and enjoys seeing Maria’s shoulders shaking with laughter. He inquires if everything is all right or if his help is needed with business matters . Today, he wants to have a look at the baby, and Maria is pleased to show her to him. “Sleeping,” she says, and puts her finger to her mouth. Gently, she opens the bedroom door and they tiptoe over to the crib. It is cold in the unheated room. The little head is poking out from under the cover. Little Maria is lying on her side, on her left ear. Shining hair peeps out from below the white bonnet. Her little fists are slightly open. Gently breathing, she lies asleep. Maria looks at Wilhelm’s friend, and in his smile there is a question, a doubt. Neither of them touches the baby’s crib; they are both quite still. Then Josef Hahnengress raises his forefinger, which means“Watch carefully, Maria!” Maria sees him purse his lips and briefly Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 246 4/26/2017 12:17:50 PM The Stories They Told Me 247 puff out his cheeks. Of course, she has not heard the slightest sound of the whistle. At the same time, she sees her baby start with fright. Her eyes open wide, she screws up her face and begins to cry. Maria clutches her hands to her heart.“Can hear! Can hear!”she shouts, hugs Josef, and picks up the crying child, holds her tightly, and weeps and weeps. She sobs and sniffs and laughs, and the tears run down her cheeks. “Wilhelm! Wilhelm! Pity, Wilhelm not here! Wilhelm very glad! Very glad...

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