May the Angels lead thee into Paradise; may the Martyrs receive thee at thy coming and take thee to Jerusalem, the holy city. May the choirs of the Angels receive thee, and mayest thou with once poor Lazarus, have rest everlasting. Amen.
The grass still had dew upon it, the sun hadn’t rose enough to lift it away. Instead, the sun turned the green hills of the Polish countryside golden on top and dark on the bottom. The hills and the countryside, these are the things that I will miss the most.
I told mother that I wish I could stay but she recited to me the reasons why I must come with the rest of the family. She recited just as she had every time I suggested that I stay. The whole family was going. Our small farm was sold already. The animals were either put down so we would have food to travel with or they were sold to Jozef Gryziak, the butcher. Father’s small shop where he bent metal and people brought their horses to get shoes was also sold for a small sum to his apprentice. Mother had many more reasons, but I never cared to hear them all. ‘Don’t you walk off while I am talking to you, Mieczyslaw,’ she would call to me and then continue her list why I couldn’t stay.
It was true, the whole family was going. My parents and my brothers, my uncles with their families; no one would be left to help me and since they all had sold their farms there would be no place for me to stay. Plus, I was hardly old enough to get along on my own. (FIND AGE) is not an age where even the toughest of boys had a good chance of surviving.
We were leaving tomorrow at dawn, which meant I had just less than a day to say goodbye to the place and anyone I hadn’t already said my farewells to. Without the animals to look after or the blacksmith shop to run, there was little for my parents to tell me to do. We had spent the past month packing what we needed for the trip and selling the rest. Our small pile of things was crammed into the corner of the house, closest to the door. There were three trunks packed with clothes, blankets, photographs and small odds and ends that we thought necessary bring across the ocean. Other than an old ball and clothes, I didn’t have much. I didn’t have much to begin with. Mr. Gryziak’s daughter, Doloreta, had given me a photograph of herself. She was a few years older than me and mother says she fancies me. Truth be told, I fancy her too but I have never spoken that aloud. While I am glad to have the photograph, I doubt I would need it to remember the twinkle in her eyes or the way her smile forced its way into her round cheeks. If only Mr. Gryziak would have decided to follow our family to America. I’ll write Doloreta when we settle in America and tell her where we’re living so she can find us, if ever she leaves Poland.
“Mieczyslaw, what are you doing?”
“Nothing, Joseph. I am standing here in our yard and I am doing nothing. I want my last memories of this life to be of the morning when everything is at peace and the air is fresh and clean. I want to remember how anything more than a whisper in the morning seems to be a shout. And I want to remember the hills and how they glow as the sun rises in the east; how their shadows slowly shrink away as the day grows.”
“They say in America there are rolling hills as far as the eye can see; great patches of land that has been untouched by humans since the beginning of time,” said Joseph.
“Yes, I know brother. But I have also heard that there are great buildings all over the American cities. There are so many buildings and they are so close together that they blot out any chance of seeing the hills,” I said.
I stood next to my brother taking in the morning, waiting for the sun to rise above the hilltops. Around us, birds chirped and sang their morning songs while their chicks chirped, demanding to be fed. From where we stood, we could hear the faint morning noises of the town (PICK TOWN NAME). There was the faint clang of the blacksmith hammer coming from father’s old blacksmith shop. The railroad men were shouting to one another, preparing the freight before the train left the station. I could even pick out one boy shouting the morning’s headlines to attract the town to buy his papers.
“Where are you going, Mieczyslaw?”
“I’m going to wander downtown. You are welcome to join me.”
“I can’t. Father asked Gus and I to help him check over the barrels of meat for the trip. I am surprised he hasn’t asked you also.”
“I haven’t seen father yet this morning,” I said.
“Why don’t you come help us anyway? Then we can all be done with it sooner? We can go to town after we finish.”
But I didn’t want to help. I knew that if I was there when they were done checking the barrels of meat, I would never get to town because father will have something for them to do after they are done, and then something after that and then after that. There would be work all day, even though there is little left to do.
I had nowhere in particular to go in town, but I went anyway. There wasn’t much to do so I ended up at the train station. The men who worked the rails were strong; throwing barrels of goods from the beds of the cars down to the men on the ground. I remember when the train first came to town, it wasn’t very long ago. I was three or four, I don’t remember, and mother and father were excited along with the rest of the town. Most of them had remembered when they laid the tracks so many years ago; some had even helped put them down. But the tracks came from (FIND TOWN NAME) and wanted to connect to (OTHER TOWN NAME) and we were just in the middle, so the train didn’t come our way until the tracks stretched all the way to (SECOND TOWN NAME).