Recap: Bayla, Mimi, and Sophie are on the boat headed to Missouri.
We were standing in front of the boat and I was hugging Fraidy so hard. We were both crying. Fraidy in her short life had already had too many separations. She was a three-year-old who was like a mini-grownup in terms of the sorrow she had to absorb. Aliza grabbed onto my leg. “No, you can’t go.”
Tante Aimee came and handed her a little paper filled with rock candy. “Come be brave, sweetie.”
“Aliza, I’ll write to you. Tante Aimee will take care of you.”
Fraidy and Aliza were shrieking and Benny had tears coursing down his cheek. Benny clung to Mimi.
Tears glistened in Tante Aimee’s eyes. She hugged us.
Sophie was acting stoically. I wished she would cry. Her blank face worried me. The boat whistle sounded and Feter Dan carried our bags close to the boat and handed them to us.
Shimon Zev was on guard duty, but he’d sent a goodbye note. We headed onto the dock and onto the boat. I helped Sophie. She leaned on my shoulder as she hobbled with her crutches. We stood by the bow of the boat, waving and waving until I thought my hand would fall off, and soon the boat started drifting away and we were leaving England behind.
It was as the boat pulled away that Sophie began sobbing hysterically. “I don’t want to go. No, I can’t.”
Mimi held her and tried to calm her. She patted her hair and rubbed her shoulders, but Sophie was inconsolable.
The trip went on and on and we were all terribly seasick. I would sit by the rail watching waves crest into hills of foam. Sea gulls cawed, flying overhead. Our boat glided forward on the endless ink-blue swells.
Mimi was lying down. “I feel awful,” she said.
My stomach roiled but I could sit up. “I can’t wait until this trip ends. When will it ever end?”
Sophie was surprisingly the one who felt the best of the three of us. She spent hours sitting on the deck, watching the waves, and she described how she loved watching other ships passing.
One night, as I stood watching the waves that glistened in ripples in the moonlight, one of the seamen suddenly called. “Everyone go down below.”
We hurried down to the hold. “Mimi, what is it?”
“German submarine. I’m sure of it. I heard some of the sailors talking. They spotted it nearby.”
Suddenly, we heard gunshots.
My heart thudded against my chest. “Mimi, we’re going to die.”
Sophie clung to me, crying hysterically.
“Let’s daven,” Mimi said. “Remember what Papa said: Hashem is my shadow. He’s with us each step of the way.”
The gunshots continued like a raging thunderstorm – until all at once there was silence.
“Stay here,” one of the sailors said, coming down to talk to the frightened passengers. “There are a lot of injuries. We will be docking at the next neutral port to get medical help. Please don’t come up on deck. It’s possible another German boat may be near.”
We were sitting in the hold, shivering with fear and reciting T’hilim until we felt the boat dock. The same sailor came down. “We’re taking the wounded off now. You can disembark and get some fresh air now.”
The three of us followed the crowd up on deck and then we climbed onto the dock. Seagulls cawed. I turned away when I saw the stretchers with men bleeding.
We stayed in Halifax for a while, until the sailor came and told us to get on board. “We have to get going now.”
I’ll never forget my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty gleaming in the early morning light.
We had instructions from Cousin Riva that she would send a man named Jake, her worker’s cousin, to meet us in New York and direct us to the train. We would have a long train ride once we landed. Missouri was far away from New York.
Finally, we were on solid ground. Our legs were wobbly. The man named Jake found us, and he told us to get into his car and he’d take us to the train station. I had instructions from Tante Aimee on how to verify it was him.
“What’s your cousin’s name?” I asked the man in front of us. “Jim – he works for Mr. and Mrs. Cantor.”
I nodded to Mimi and we followed him to his car.
Jake drove us to Pennsylvania Station. I glanced around at the tall buildings. My main impression of New York City was noise and bustle and dirt.
Pennsylvania Station had long, pink columns. I gazed at the high ceilings and glass all around. The train station was magnificent. When we were waiting in line to purchase tickets, a mother in front of us asked, “Where are you girls traveling to?”
“Missouri,” I said.
“Missouri? That’s an awfully long trip. Why would you go there?”
I told her we had relatives, but I felt a knot forming in my stomach. I dreaded another long journey.
We stepped into the train that would whisk us to Missouri.
The train ride reminded me of the ride that seemed so long ago, when Shimon Zev and I traveled together to Paris. There was a loud whistle, thankfully so different from the scary whistle of bombs. There was a steady click-clack on the tracks as the train chugged along. Mimi was sitting near me. Sophie was gazing forlornly out the window.
“What do you think it will be like in Missouri?” Mimi whispered.
I was wondering the same thing and hoping my negative predictions would not come true.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers 2020), Denver Dreams (a novel, Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials, and features in various magazines, including A Bridge in Time, historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). Fiction serial in The Jewish Press – Falling Star (2019), article in the Winter 2019 Jewish Action Magazine. She contributes to the community column for the Queens Jewish Link and writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivos and teaches creative writing to students of all ages.