imagine you are trapped alone or with others at a single place during a ginormous blizzard or its aftermath. Here goes...!
The news had been warning us for days. A vicious blizzard was coming our way and everyone should stock up, hole up and stay home. So I did. My husband was out of town, but I knew the drill and could prepare for a storm by myself.
My little house sits on a heavily-treed point, overlooking the lake. It's a quiet, out-of-the-way place where no one happens by--not even salesmen. In all my years here, I've never had anyone selling encyclopedias, vacuum cleaners, frozen steaks or Jesus stop here. It's one of the things I love about my home.
The firewood was stacked close to the house, the pantry was stocked and the water jugs were ready. A big snowstorm often means a power failure and then the well pump doesn't work. I thought I was well-prepared.
I was making myself a cup of Earl Grey tea when I heard a knock at my front door.
I went to see who it was.
Standing at my door was a small, dark-haired young woman. Her plaid coat had brass buttons and very wide lapels. It must have come from a thrift store straight out of the 30s. Still, there was something hopeful and tender in her eyes. In a heavy accent she asked, "Can I come in? I am turned around."
I wouldn't usually open my door wide to a stranger, but there she stood. Cold her in old coat, young and misplaced. I let her in with a warm smile and gave her the tea I had just fixed for myself.
"Are you alright?" I asked. "Did your car break down?"
"Car? I don't know from car. I am just turned around. Thank you for the tea. My hands feel so much warmer now."
"What is your name? Where are you from?" I asked, even though it felt like prying.
"I am Maria. I am born in Holland."
My family came from Holland, so we chatted about that for a while. Her accent made her sound like the rest of the family. The longer we talked the more the nagging little bell, ringing a single note of familiarty, clanged in my head. Something familiar, some story I had heard before was whispering fiercely at me, but I couldn't quite figure it out. I felt like I knew what she was going to say next, but we had just met. How could that be?
"I and my husband and my little boy, we came over in May. My sister and her husband and her little boy, we all came over together." Maria told me. "Mama and Papa and my brothers and sisters will come soon. Then we all be together again."
"What is your little boy's name?" I asked, just conversationally.
"Oh! He is Franciscus. Here, they call him 'little Frank'. Franciscus Jacobus. Oh, he is such a good boy. He is very serious. Such a little man already, and only 3 years old. Franciscus, he will be a fine man." Clearly, a proud mother. "And my husband. He is a fine man, too. He works very hard and he laughs. It is so nice to have a laughing man.:" Maria was a contented woman, in spite of the upheaval that coming to America must have been for her.
The more Maria talked, the more I recognized who she really was.
"Bernardus, my husband, he fished all night for the eels. Many nights he fished for the eels, so we could have money to come to America. He work very hard. My parents, they were not so sure we were right, you know. But then they see how hard he work, and they know. He would not work so hard unless he was sure, so they take us serious now."
Maria and her husband Bernardus and their little boy Franciscus. Little Frank. They came to America to start a new life. Her sister knew they would be better off, so she and her husband and their son joined Maria. The rest of her family was finally convinced and later followed her here.
The snow kept falling and I kept the tea kettle simmering all night, because somehow, in that bitter blizzard, I came face to face with my own history. This is the woman I've wondered about so very often. This is the woman I have longed to be able to talk to. This is Maria Louisa Broeckardt.
Maria is my great-grandmother. Franciscus Jacobus? That's my grandfather: born in 1890, immigrated to America aboard the Friesland in May of 1893.
Please, feel free to critique!