In Two Months
By A. Gentry
The peppery rays of sun splash across my face as I look up. I breath in sweet tulips from where the soft wind carried their sent. There’s nothing but endless rows of tulip fields that blanket the Dutch ground of the Netherlands. From my spot in an elm tree it seems as if a rainbow laid across the world. As I look to my right there is a small windmill just up the hill. An adult Dutch elm tree wraps around the hexagon base of the windmill to the second floor and stretches to the right, hanging over a small brick cottage that matches the windmill. That cottage is my home. I jump down from my perch in the tulips and quickly remember I forgot to take off my wooden clog shoes when my feet smash into the ground. I take off my shoes and 7 pairs of socks to slip in my house shoes. I can’t believe people wear 9 to 12 pairs of socks in the Netherlands for their wooden shoes. its uncomfortable enough to wear 7. “that’s better” I say feeling the looseness of the black house shoes. Beginning the short stroll to my house, sweat drips from my forehead due to the 5 layers of skirts and slips that reach my shoes, to make it worse my traditional outer dress is black. Walking along the of the white rows of tulips I pick three and lay them in my white and green apron. Reaching the door smoke inches to my nose. I quickly turn around to see flames devouring the fields of color. It races quickly to the cottage and windmill. My feet climb the stone wall of the cottage and carry me to the roof. The windmill is engulfed with flame. My home country being destroyed sends anxiety that weakens me to fall and then paralyzes my hands to the straw roof. Gazing at the tulips flames, a flag forms in the red orange glow. It’s the flag of a second French revolution with the year, 1862, under it. The red white and blue vertical stripes send more fear inside me and then I hear the base of the windmill crack only to turn around to four flaming pillars crash on top of…..
“Tess, Tess, wake up!” I jolt, gasping awake to Jacobs frantic tone. He catches me when I sit up quickly “Tess?” he calls again asking if I’m alright threw his eyes. I can’t ever lie to Jacob. I don’t respond.
He asks, “Was it that dream again?”
I nod my head to say yes.
“Tess” he pauses to think. “why won’t you tell me what the matter is?”
“Just a bad dream.”
Jacob holds me close to him, leaning against the wall of wooden ship. There’s hundreds of people in the bottom of what feels like a prison. A large man snores beside me as Jacob strokes my blonde locks that weave into a braided bun. I turn the wooden engagement ring Jacob made for me. It is a light wood with a wood-burned ivy vine that makes a circle around it. The ring is sanded so fine its as smooth as glass. “Close your eyes. Don’t worry about the people” he says knowing I over think everything around me. The creaking ship rocks me to a half sleep.
“These dreams have been recurring since we left port, Tess. I’m concerned” he whispers softly. I tense up from too many thoughts of the dreams.
“I’m fine.” I growl. Something inside me snaps. I don’t care about the future war in the Netherlands. All I care about is the opportunity in America. The equality in America is what I want. To be able to work on a pottery wheel and marry who I want. Not because of social class but for the personality. Jacob interrupts my thoughts, “Tess” he pauses with a deep sigh “ you did not tell your father you left did you?” Silence answers him. I never told my father my plans to go to America with Jacob. Jacob’s family is wealthy and as for me, I am not. My father has told me many times not to pick the prettiest flower because I did not deserve it, that my quality could never match Jacob Gentry. But in the end he was wrong. Now Jacob and I sail to America to meet his father in New York and take the long journey to Holland, Michigan. Jacob sighs again, “There’s no going back now. I do hope you consider writing a letter to him.” He replies to my silence. Jacob will never understand my relationship with my father. Ever since I was born he treated me as a housemaid instead of a daughter. Cleaning dishes, cooking, sweep, make the beds, my father did nothing but eat and sleep. I worked in the tulip fields. I earned the living only to come home to a drunk father who never did anything but steal money to buy booze. This was my life since birth.
“What about your mother?” Jacob calmly asks. He leans forward as his blue eyes catch the light from the candles hanging above.
“I left white tulips at her stone.” My mother died of childbirth. Perhaps that is why my father treated me the way he did, and drank so much. It’s been 36 days on this ship. I just want to smell tulips again.
“Are we close to America?” I ask
“Come see for yourself”, Jacob smiles.
The sun burns my pail Dutch skin and then the air bites it with cold wind. The light blinds me of the world. A tint of green blends into the light and then a whole statue. Snow covered America, the land where dreams come true. Jacob lays a red plaid blanket over my shoulders and then clamps his hand around mine. He carries our two sacks on his strong shoulders.
“This is it. America, just a few months from here and we will be in Michigan”. I look at him concerned. He laughs “guess that’s not very comforting now is it” His bright smile complements his blue eyes that sparkle in the sunlight. Jacob’s hair is black. Just another reason to love him. He doesn’t fit in the Dutch culture.
January 24th 1862
When we arrive at the loading dock Jacob hands me my sack and makes sure I’m one of the first ones off followed by him. The busy street that I descend to makes me so nervous I lose grip of my sack of clothes and blankets. Jacob immediately lets go of my hand and grabs the sack before it slips off the loading plank. “Its ok I got it”. Relief flows though his tone. The women seem strange to me that none of them are wearing the gold headbands with spiral tips at the ends. These are called kissers. Afraid of what people will think of me I take it off.
“Tess what are you doing” Jacob demands an answer.
“I don’t want to stand out.”
“But you’re engaged. You must”
“That’s why you gave me a ring”
As I step onto the port I retake my red sack and sling it onto my shoulder with the same hand my kissers are in. A joyous 6 foot 4 man stands by a two horse carriage waving his arms frantically. “That’s my father. Just call him Sir. His kind I promise. Come on” Jacob encourages. Mr. Gentry’s black coat and tall boots clash with the white pants. Jacob was right, his family is wealthy but I did not expect this high of standard. I look back at Jacob to see him in his rugged black cotton shirt and pants. Seeing him in matching attire to me softens my fears.
I advance to Jacob’s father shipping through the traffic of bodies to the man. Jacob once again holding my hand behind me follows.
“You made it my son!” Mr.Gentry’s voice loudly over the business. “Please I can take your bag Miss Tess. You had a long journey.”
“Yes sir” my voice cracks, hardly making noise.
“No need to be nervous my lady. You’re safe here.” Mr.Gentry gently lays my bag in the bed of the carriage. Jacob hops into the bed as well laying his bag by mine. He reaches his hand out to me “come on” Jacob’s smile is so bright with happiness its hard to look at him.
When I’m in the carriage I sit down and lean against the back of the driving seat. Jacob sits next to me in the nest of bags wrapping a gentle arm around my shoulder.
“Some of our cousins are meeting us in Scranton.” Mr. Gentry taps the horses with a long whip and they walk on pulling the carriage with a jolt.
“Always good to travel with family. It’s a long journey to Holland Michigan and can be a bit dangerous. But don’t worry Miss you’re in good hands with my son. Oh so much scenery, The city, forest, fields. Son did I ever tell you about the time the charge overturned and I stumbled on a rock? The horse lost its shoe and….” Jacob’s father continues blabbering about. Jolly man won’t stop talking. Jacob looks at me with an embarrassed smile. “He’s really a good man Tess. You will see.” Jacob promises and holds my hand in my lap. I smile praying he’s right.
April 6th 1862, My Birthday
Seventy days, 1680 hours, 100800 minutes of being tossed around shivering in the bed of a carriage for 767.9 miles. Every inch of me is sore and tired of the rough trails to Michigan. After the first day of travel Mr. Gentry stopped his senseless talking and limited it to casual conversation with Jacob. The last few weeks have been warmer and the trees have buds. America is so beautiful withe the trees and mountains. Suddenly the carriage stopped and my head is thrown back into the drivers seat. I stand on my knees and turn to the front. Small houses line a carriage road. There wasn’t much there but a windmill and red, white and yellow tulips. “Home at last” Mr.Gentry said smiling. “You youngins want to walk? it’s been a long journey. Stretch your legs.” There is no hesitation in Jacob and my reaction. We get up and hop out on to the michigan ground. “My family’s house is just down the road. Ill carry the bags my lady.” Jacob says existed. Now that I met Jacob’s father I understand why he is so polite.
My room is 16 by 16 feet. Its so spacious compared to my small 9 by 6 foot cubbered in the Netherlands. Theres two twin beds on both sides of the window that divides the room equally. The handmade quilts have a pattern of purple tulips with a white background. Two pillows are neatly placed in the middle of the beds, One is white the other a matching purple to the quilt. At the foot of each bed is a large brown chest for clothing on the wooden paneled floor. The bed to the right has another window above it. Between the beds is a circular wooden table with 16 fresh cut white tulips. Beneath my feet is a white and purple handmade rug that stretches across the room that leaves a two foot border of the floor. Walls are painted white as well and in the left corner closest to the door stands an easel with three 30 inch by 40 inch canvases leaning against it. Beside the easel is another circular table with 12 paint brushes lined up. There’s a drawer that I can only assume has oil paints in it.
“This is our room Tess. My mother wanted everything to be perfect. I told her this would be too much but better more than less.” Jacob walks thru the door and places ower sacks on the left bed next to the stack of pillows.
I stand speechless in the doorway till I feel a steadiness of air behind me. I jump gasping when I turn my head to find Mr.Gentry behind me. “I’m sorry to startle you Miss. Tess!” he exclaims. “I was just going to tell you i found a job for you. Jacob alway told me you enjoyed the arts so I got you a throwing job at the pottery shop. You Make bowls and cups on a wheel. Thought you would like that. Best of all you get payed by the quality not quantity. Took me two months but its yours now. just sign here if you want it.” My legs buckle and i slide down the frame of the door. Jacob catches my arm bracing me to a stand. “Tess are you alright?” my mind flows through this fantasy. I have a job, in America. My mind drifts off to a land of blue, white and black. Faint dampened little thuds enter my head and then there snaps in my face. I gasp releasing i zoned out.
“What?” I ask batting my eyes for a moment. Everything is a bit blurry.
“Tess, you got a job that’s at a pottery shop.”
“Oh” I am so tired I can’t even believe what I’m hearing. Jacob comes into focus with the rest of the world.
Mr. Gentry acknowledges the fact I’m in shock. “Why don’t you two get some rest. You have had a long two months to get here. You deserve to relax.” “Thank you father. We appreciate it” Jakob says. Mr.gentry walks down the hall and Jacob closes the door. He leads me to the bed opposite to the window sitting me down on what seems to be a cloud. I lay on my side holding the purple feather filled pillow. Jacob takes off my black slip on shoes then sits by my side. He softly whispers “sleep” and I do so as if he cast a spell on me. I sleep a dream of my new home in America with Jacob and throw clay on the wheel to the end of my days.