I felt my whole body shiver as the wind pushed me towards the white cliff only yards ahead.
It was early September, and unlike the beaches I was accustomed to back in South Carolina, the white emptiness seemed to swallow me up as I looked out upon the vast sea that separated me from my home.
“Why had I come here?” I asked myself as I turned quickly towards what I felt was more steady ground.
“What had drawn me from my home, still summer-like, warm and welcoming, back to this dreary place where so much had happened in the years long past?”
I felt the wind whip my hair, just as it did on the beaches at home, and tied it in a knot, so as not to find it filled with tangles. Back home, my curls would have danced in the heat of the sun, the glimmer of sand in the early evening sparkling like diamonds amidst the scattered shells.
I wondered what they called this place where the earth dropped off so violently to the sea. I could not, for the life of me, remember. Surely, it couldn’t be called ‘a beach’, as we called it back home. There was no beach, no glistening sand, no shells or sharks teeth to pick up as souvenirs. Only a harsh, sharp shrub, blown towards the sea, like a withered old man.
I felt my scarf swirl around my neck as I headed down the winding trail to the hut made of stone and partially covered by a roof of thatched straw and branches. The memories rushed back to me as the shadow from the house made the chill of the wind even stronger.
I remembered clinging to my mother’s hand as she ran down this trail when she saw father trudging up the hillside from the pasture below. I could almost smell the pot of steaming soup on the stove and the worn table and benches where we would sit and eat, the five of us, thankful that there was anything to eat at all.
Only then, looking upon my father’s gravestone, did I realize why my mother had taken her three little girls past that grave one last night, then loaded our sparse belongings onto to wagon with the echo of the horses hooves beneath us. We traveled for hours it seemed, towards the rivers’ edge and then boarding the ship, momma holding onto us as if we were made of glass.
It was both the loss of hope and the search for something better that drove my momma into that shipyard that cold night. It was her strength and courage that found us living in a warm cabin across the endless sea that had given us what we had now.
I was filled with admiration for her brave soul, her staunch determination, as she made her way to that new land. I looked across the sea to America, to opportunity, to home.