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The Land of Opportunity
A sudden rush of anxiety inundated my whole family. I could see it in the way my parents held each other, glancing at each other when they were even more uncomfortable. I prayed silently, “Dear Lord, please help us get through this together and let everything be done in your glory and your glory only, in Jesus’ Holy name, amen.” My family looked ordinary. Except for my father, we all wore some dull dresses. My dad wore an old, black suit. As my blonde locks draped over my shoulder, I fixed my sister’s hair which looked identical to mine. During the thirteen years I lived, I knew that I should always rely on God. My first instinct was to pray because I was raised in a very serious Christian family.
“Number 125, please continue to Register 3. Thank you.” A monotone voice called over the murmur between families. My mother looked back at the lady behind us and gave a swift smile. While walking to Register 3, which was just a wooden podium, I noticed that I was about an inch taller than it. I looked over and saw many numbers and names when a man in an old suit asked for our papers. Suddenly, I was distracted by loud praying and sobbing. A family was sitting on a bench which soaked up the tears. At first, I thought that the family was going to start a new life in America, but my thought was proven wrong when another family was escorted out and given instructions to leave immediately. The seriousness of the decision that the man, Mr. Sam, was going to make, frightened me as I watched him study our information.
“Well,” He started in a tone we all feared. “You have everything I need. Please go through the door on your right. I hope that America is the land of opportunity. Hope you learn to adapt!” He added with a cheerful tone and smile.
That night, the cool autumn zephyr rustled through my long curly hair as we were riding on a ship that would take us the short distance from Ellis Island to Boston, Massachusetts. While I was overwhelmed by the sight of high rise buildings, busy streets, and people overcrowding the sidewalks, I saw my father talking to a man on the ship. Because I was overwhelmed, I thought, “How am I going to live like this?” But I was assured that God had a plan. My father made a deal with that same man. The man, Mr. Joseph, owned a building and decided to rent out the basement of his home to us. We were preparing to live in his basement.
On the way to our “new” house, my parents stopped at a store that had a brightly colored help wanted sign. After spending a long time in the clothing store looking through some clothes, my parents came out and started walking out the door. We walked a few blocks to a street named Sugarberry Court. The house number was 1253. With each step, the feeling of anxiety rose once again.
Ding. Dong. The doorbell sung. Footsteps were heard from the inside. The door opened and we saw the same man with his wife and son. The man was robust while the woman was petite. The son, whose name was Tom, was average and looked like all the other boys in the city. We introduced ourselves in the elaborately decorated living room. There was a portrait of the owner’s family which was an indicator that they were very wealthy. As my youngest sister, Katherine, yawned, our family said goodnight as we crept down to the Joseph’s basement.
The basement had a fireplace and one full bathroom. There were two beds also, one for my parents and one for Mary, Katherine, and me to share. This exciting day cause all of us to be struck by exhaustion. Soon, I heard gentle snoring over the wind’s cry.
The next day, I was woken by a slight and persistent nudge along with my mother’s soft voice. My parents were going to work. She asked me to watch my sisters as well as unpack, wash and dry clothes, and go buy groceries and cook.
I was startled by how much work my parents gave me. It was hard enough to watch the kids but also cooking and laundry? “This is way to much!” I thought. “I better go buy groceries now while my sisters are still sleeping.”
Hurriedly, I left the house and walked to the grocery store a few blocks away. I bought some food along with some necessities we did not have such as soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other things as well. With a large load in my arms, I was walking back when I saw a beautiful pink dress with sequins. I knew it was too expensive but at these times, I wished I was wealthy. After people started pushing me, I knew that I had to get back home. I jolted back fast enough to see my sisters sleeping on the bed. I started the old wood burning stove and boiled a large pot of water. I put in some soap along with many clothes we had from the long voyage to Ellis Island from Britain. I started to wash the whites when I heard my sister looking for food. Mary, the second oldest, was wearing her white nightgown. I gave her a small biscuit and I ate one too. I bought just enough for each member of my family. After we finished our brunch, I asked Mary to wipe off the dust in the basement with a cloth. She started on the side closest to the bathroom.
In the next hour, I finished. I asked mother where to hang the clothes to dry this morning and she said to hang them outside. There were three lines of rope hung from the side of the house to a pole in the ground. With a large load of laundry, I walked up the stairs. In the back, outside the house, there was a clothes line. I was clipping the clothes up to dry but my finger was pinched a couple of times in the process.
When I reached the basement, I saw Katherine wandering around the perimeter of the basement.
“Katherine, come eat.” I called. She came to the “table” which was a cardboard box for now. I looked around and found Mary hard at work. I decide to help her after I gave Katherine a biscuit. After all, she only was seven years old. I began to dust off the opposite side of Mary, the side with three windows. As I gazed out of the window, the leaves looked like nymphs floating down gently.
The basement looked extremely clean and I fell on my bed, which felt lumpy. I cooked, cleaned, and did the laundry from six in the morning until five in the afternoon. I still had to unpack the boxes that we had our possessions in. With a huge sigh, I walked towards a box and it contained clothing. There was one small wooden box that we were going to use as a dresser for all of us. I decided to put my cloths in a cardboard box so that everyone else’s fit. There were five more boxes and thankfully, no more clothing because there was no more room in the miniscule dresser. It was because we sold everything absolutely unnecessary before our long voyage.
After I finished everything, I jumped onto my bed to take a nap. I heard the pitter-patter of the rain against the windows. Right when I was about to fall asleep, the door opened. My parents arrived home from work. I thought, “Why? Why? Why?”
Exhausted, I put some water on the stove to make a vegetable soup with my mother. It was an excessive contrast to the rain outside. Rubbing my eyes, I got ready for bed and fell into a deep sleep. A lot of work made me tired.
Persistent nudging woke me up again. “Bethany, can you do the cooking and the laundry?” my mom asked softly. It wasn’t a question though. It was more of a command but in a nicer way. She left with my father quickly after.
The next few days were the same as the first, except the work became easier that the day before. But one day, I could not take it anymore.
When my parents came back, as usual, I whined. “Why? Why? Why?” I thought no one could hear me but I was wrong. My mom heard.
“What are you asking?” my mother asked in a curious tone.
“Umm…well,” I started. “Fine, I’ll tell. I don’t get why I have to do everything.”
“Beth, you’re helping me and your father while we are at work. You help our lives run smoothly.” She stated.
The conversation went on and on. My mother explained how we could live because of me. Without me, I learned that my mom would have to stay home and we would not be able to afford to live in our house. The responsibility on me was huge but I understood why.
The following day, I got up as usual, without my mom telling me. While I was walking back from the grocery store, as always, I noticed that the pink dress was gone. “Oh, well,” I thought. “I could never afford or wear such a frivolous dress.” When I arrived home, I heard some chatter. “Are my sisters already awake?” I asked myself.
“Surprise!” My family said in unison. “Happy Birthday, Beth!” I completely forgot it was my 14th birthday.
“Here. We all want you to have it.” My father said as he handed me a box with a light pink bow. With teary eyes, I opened the box not expecting what I saw next. When I looked down, it was the frivolous pink dress in the clothing store’s window. I put it to me and it looked like it fit. I changed quickly and looked in the bathroom mirror. I saw a different me. Not physically, but the way I was going to live and act were all planned out for me. I knew how I was going to deal with life, with a smile and a positive attitude whenever I can. The responsibility on my shoulders didn’t feel like a burden anymore, it was my way of helping my family.
“Thank you! Thank you!” I exclaimed.
“Your welcome and happy birthday!” my mom said cheerfully.
The past days were very life changing. From Ellis Island to a new home, I felt like my life was going to be a lot better. I finally learned what it meant to be responsibly.