Clara was jolted by the sudden reality of their journey. She could see the ships lining the harbor, and wrinkled her nose at the sewage and salty air. Sailors carried barrels of supplies along the wooden docks. The passengers climbed the steep gangway to the ship that would be their home for the next two months.
While looking across the sea, she held the hand of one small son and soothed a babe wrapped up in her arm. A smile touched her lips as she felt the clinging hand of a wee one holding tight to the hem of her dress. Her six children ranging from two to thirteen were boarding the ship. The soft swelling beneath the waist of Clara’s full skirts showed evidence of yet another child to be brought into the world.
Clara’s devoted husband Thomas assisted the little ones up to the ship. As was his usual way, he turned to check on her. Their eyes met. His spoke volumes of how much he cherished Clara.
Thomas held his arms out for the babe, “Clara, my dear, little Jon needs his mother to assist him up to the ship,” She murmured her thanks as she placed Anne into his waiting arms for safekeeping. Clara grasped the soft hand of little Jon who clung to her skirt, feeling trust and love in his warm little fingers. Looking up, he gazed into her eyes.
“Mum, will it take long to get to America?” Clara winked at him while giving his hand a squeeze. “The Captain says the voyage will take two months if the weather holds. Now that, my young man, is when our real adventure will begin.”
“Will I get a pony, Mum?” His rapt smile warmed her heart.
“Yes, my dear, I suppose that soon you will have a pony of your own.” Patting his hand, she paused briefly during their climb to look down longingly at her sisters. They were waving tearful goodbyes from the docks below. Clara wiped away a tear as she waved one final farewell. She was embarking on the ship that would take them to their new home across the sea. Saying a silent prayer for the loved ones they were leaving behind, she accepted the arm of her dear Thomas.
Soon the ship was underway. Two small cabins were all that they could afford for a family of eight. It was the baby Anne that was the biggest worry. She had been ill for weeks, and had become very fragile in its wake.
Thomas suggested that they all have a word of prayer to prepare them for the voyage. Having said it, Thomas’s face appeared ashen. Clara had a distinct impression that Anne would be taken from them soon. She was unprepared for the emotions that its revelation had brought. Clara had been brave in her devotion to Thomas’s dream of a better life, and continued to feel its fervor. She would stand steadfast in hope and love for him regardless of the outcome. It was the Lord that wanted them to go to America; Clara felt it with every fiber of her being. They had to help bare each other’s burdens on this voyage. There was little else they could do.
That first night the children were either in hammocks or bunks, bundled in and sleeping peacefully with the rolling motion of the waves. It was the moment parents wished for many a day. Clara sat atop a chest rocking baby Anne, crooning tearful lullabies to the still form. The babe’s listless form slept on.
“Clara, let’s take Anne up top and see if the warm summer air does her good”
Clara nodded feeling heartsick that the precious baby had not recovered before the voyage began. Fear gripped her heart as she absorbed every breath her baby took with each step to the deck above.
The stars glistened and the moonlit deck was awash with the ethereal beauty of its light. What a perfect night for a stroll. If only Anne were able to do so with a love of her own one day. Clara knew it would never be so.
Thomas held them tight to him as they watched a shooting star race across the night sky. Looking down at sweet baby Anne, they both wept as she drew her last tiny breath.
Love sometimes means never looking back. The future, and their freedom, lay in the journey ahead to their new home in the wilds of America.
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