“Move Along !” came the cry of the ship’s steward. A river of human beings pushed and shoved their way up the sagging gang plank that would lead them to the third class accommodations aboard the Saale in the port at Bremen, Germany. Each one heading off to a land they did not know with only what belongings they could carry.
People were grumbling in all sorts of languages. Screams and sobs were mixed in along with the barely audible wailing of a very small infant. His name was Bernard and he was but six weeks old. Bundled in a woven bag that would serve as both carrier and cradle he dangled around his mother’s neck. His father Julian could not get his mother to relinquish him so that her husband could hold him higher in the fresh air. So he did what he could by placing himself as a barrier between his family and possible miscreants or diseased in the group. His one arm tightly held her waist so they could not be separated. His other arm and back were loaded as a pack mule with as many supplies as he could carry for his wife and first born son.
Suddenly there came loud crash from farther up the gangplank. Another passenger’s suitcase which he had been carrying on his head tumble down toward the little family and tout of instinct Julian covered his wife and son with his own body. The case lost its’ momentum and landed on the back of an old German man who went to his knees in pain. Only the quick arms of fellow passengers kept him from falling overboard.
Maryanna could feel Julian’s grip on her waist just under Bernie tighten and surprisingly calmed her just a bit. She was forced to admit herself that her own Father had been right. A woman traveling alone to America was a very dangerous thing to do.
“Maryanna, Mrs. Nowalski...... I want to ask you one last time if you are sure you want this? Your husband has gone to extraordinary measures to save your marriage.” Her lawyer translated for her just as he had done through two years of litigation. She looked directly at the judge and pronounced as firmly as she could, “Yes”. Maybe now Julian would stop asking her to remarry him and she could go on with her life as the free and independent woman she had always been.
The divorce was granted and a notation was placed on the paperwork requesting to keep this news out of the local paper. Being labeled a “divorcee” in 1920 carried a stigma that gave energy to wagging tongues and inspiration to small minds. All of which Maryanna hoped would disappear with the healing salve of time. As for all the pain, arguments, and secrets, their memory would fade too. She would surround herself with her children and grandchildren and run her general store. Julian could go to hell.
Author's copyright 2012
For months I have been struggling with writing my Great-Grandparent's story. Then I read Mitch Albom's FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN and really liked his manipulation of time. So I thought I would give it a try. Please all comments, suggestions, or critiques of this first draft beginning are more than welcome.
* Kind of funny writing this just after putting flowers on their graves for Memorial Day.