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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Melody (08/24/06)

TITLE: Freedom's Melody
By Valora Otis


This journey was simply not what she had expected. All the papers she and Thomas had read before coming to America said, “The roads in America are paved with gold, food for the picking and jobs aplenty.” This Ellis Island had much to be desired if that were true.

As she walked down the gangway with little Anne wrapped in her arms and little Jonathan clinging wide-eyed to her skirts, she followed Thomas for safety in this strange new land. The dock was so crowded. She grabbed Ian, her five-year-old, as he nearly fell over the edge. She was not about to loose a second child to the sea!

Clara was grateful that the pitching motion of the ship was behind them, but the ground had not ceased to move once on shore. The captain told them, “ It will take a while to get your land legs back.” He had not exaggerated in the least.

Once all the children were on shore with Clara, she counted heads- six to be sure. Thomas winked at her and headed back with their eldest, Frederick, for their belongings. It seemed like an eternity until they reappeared once again. The family was weary from the storm tossed ship. She shuddered, hoping to never cross that angry sea again.

Looking around to get her bearings, Clara watched people from many different countries. Some families were as large as hers. There was a Norwegian man carrying a new mother and her infant from another ship. The woman looked ill and the baby wailed. Bringing her infant into the world aboard a ship had been a hardship for Clara, as well. She said a silent prayer, thanking God for health and safety. Losing her other little Anne had been ever so hard on the journey. Clara lifted her chin to keep the tears at bay. Looking down at the bright eyes of her newborn, she gained resolve. The wee babe's tiny arm escaped the blanket and stretched over her head with a great yawn. This newest little Anne would have a good life - a healthy life with all that she needed and plenty to spare. It was tradition to use the name again, but it grieved her aching heart as she missed sweet Anne who was buried at sea.

Thomas must have read her mind at that moment. Clara felt his hand in the small of her back, comforting her and guiding her forward with the children, to the customs doors. The line would take forever to get through. At least they spoke the same language as most here. Or did they? She wondered as she listened. Languages seemed to vary like the colors of the rainbow in this new world.

Above the din of the sounds of suffering travelers, people peddling overpriced food and children whimpering at her side, she heard the tune of a flute. It took her back to her childhood, when times were hard and her father was alive. He had dreamt of traveling to this country many times. He would sit her on his knee, telling her what a brave new place it would be to live where the gospel was free and no one was told which church to belong to. This place, a place where freedom was in the very air she breathed. Freedom was also in the day-to-day worship of its citizens—people living according to the dictates of one's conscience. After his tale of America, Father would take out his flute and play for her. The song was his own a song that freed her soul from the dark hovel that had been their shelter from the world. The soft, lilting melody would carry her mind far away to this land she had yearned to touch with her hand and live in without fear of the tax collector. The hunger would never find her children as it had consumed her and her parents.

Clara looked over her shoulder at the man she had married. He had made her dream a reality by loving her and believing that this was what the Lord had planned for her all along. She realized as she turned to speak to the customs officer, that she had been softly humming the melody her Father had engraved in her mind and she smiled. The officer smiled back as he stamped her papers, “Clara Milner, Welcome to America.”

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This article has been read 1182 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Chrissi Dunn08/31/06
This was very interesting. Clara is an engaging character. Somehow I feel that this is just the beginning for her. I'd like to know what happens next!
Ann FitzHenry08/31/06
More! More! I want to find out more about Clara and her family. The last sentence left me wondering about this family's new life in America.

As always you do a wonderful job of setting the scene. I love your descriptions of time and place.

My favorite line: Languages seemed to vary like the colors of the rainbow in this new world.

FYI: I think loose should be lose in the second paragraph.

Great story! Is there a sequel? :-)
Melanie Smith-Taylor08/31/06
I would love to see what happens next! I hope that you use this as a springboard to a novella as you have piqued my interest in these characters. I like the description of the languages being like the rainbow; I am intrigued by the tradition of using a deceased child's name for a newborn; I hunger for more.
Awesome work!
Edy T Johnson 08/31/06
This is such a tender piece, all reflections of a mother caught up in such a massive transition in a person's life. From our vantage point in another time and place, I wonder if we can even imagine the heart-wrenching experience this must have been. With your writing, we have a chance, at least, of glimpsing the immigrant experience.

The picture that appealed to me most: "The wee babe's tiny arm escaped the blanket and stretched over her head with a great yawn."
Thanks--good job, great reading!
Marilyn Schnepp 09/03/06
A nicely told story of those who sacrificed much to come to America. Especially liked the line of "not having to worry about a tax collector"...chuckle, chuckle: they hadn't heard of IRS yet. Well written.
Joanne Malley09/05/06
I love this heartwarming tale that weaves struggle and hope. Great scene setting and effortless writing. Great job. :)
Debbie Sickler09/05/06
I really enjoyed your setting and tone of your story. I loved the names you chose too, and not just because you used two of my sons' names. :)

One thing though, "reappeared once again" I think this should just be 'appeared once again'.

This does leave the reader wanting to hear more about their new life, so job well done. :)
Allison Egley 09/05/06
As others have said, this needs a sequel! And maybe a prequel too, so we know what happened to Anna.
Jan Ackerson 09/05/06
This is just like a snapshot--very well done!
Cassie Memmer09/06/06
Very interesting! I love reading of this era. And you've written it very well! Good job!
Rebecca Livermore09/06/06
I really enjoyed this -- and I agree with others -- it needs a sequel. We want more! :)
Joanne Sher 09/07/06
Just lovely! Great description - I felt like i was right there! And, not to be repetitive - but PLEASE give us more!!
Jan Ackerson 10/29/06
Valora, I've just re-visited this lovely story, and I'm going to use it on the Front Page Showcase for the week of November 27. Look for it on Faith Writers' Home Page.

Have you thought about expanding this story yet?
Laurie Glass 10/29/06
I enjoy reading about this time period and I appreciated the emotion in this piece. Very nice.
Amy Michelle Wiley 11/27/06
Whoo hoo! Congrats on the showcase. This story deserves it. :-)
Todd Tribble11/28/06
This is an excellent beginning to what should be novel!! I can't wait to hear more about the journey. Well done!!!
Phyllis Inniss12/02/06
I agree with the other reviewers, touching and a most interesting read whetting the appeetite for more.