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From Here to Georgia
June 14th, 1732
Mother told me today that we would be starting a new life in a new land at last. She handed me this journal explaining what I write in here will be of importance one day. Right now, I can hardly believe that this will be of someone’s interest. Yet, I pick up the quill to see that smile on her face. It has been quite some time since she had smiled with pure joy. But that is not the beginning. I would rather not be struck for forgetting the beginning again. “It is a rare one,” says my mother, “You are a special individual and cannot forget it.” So, here it is.
In 1588, my bisabuelo, or great grandfather was appointed head naval officer of the Spanish Armada. There were many troubles between England and Spain at that time. Under command of Philip II, my bisabuelo led one hundred thirty ships to invade England. It was a flawless plan until the English fought back. Papá tells me that his grandfather escaped the clutches of death by dressing in a dead Englishman’s attire. From that day on, our family placed roots in both lands. Papá was the second generation in England. He met my mother at the town square when they were young. My mother was the only child of a poor, English baker who lost his wife years ago. So, everyday Mother would bring Papá bread. They were married 1720 and had me four years later.
I am the only child they had: Corazón Delphine. As it was, one mouth was hard to feed never mind three or more. My parents were both plagued heavily by debt for as long as I can remember. Papá toils all day with odd jobs just to make a penny. Mother has been selling a majority of nonessential things. That is the only way we can stay from the prisons. Until the other day when Papá brought home news that some Mr. James Oglethorpe got permission to send a boatload of the poor to the New World. “A new life, Corazón, a new life.” I’ve heard of these “New Opportunities” before. One of my friends was forced to go to a settlement. She died on the ride there.
We are almost out of ink, so I must retire for the night.
Nervous & Excited,
November 17th, 1732
Today, I sit on the docks of Gravesend watching Mister James Oglethorpe command the twenty crew members how to load the ship properly for the one hundred and fourteen of us that will be off for a new life today. He is an odd man probably in his thirties. Unlike Papá, he dresses fancily and smells strongly of powder. Though, I must confess, Señor Oglethorpe is a fairly decent leader.
We are starting to board. Hopefully it will be a quick and smooth ride.
February 1st, 1733
It has been seventy-nine days since we have left the ports of Gravesend. I miss it dearly. Our vessel, the Anne, is barely large enough for fifty people. We have grown very close to our neighbors- very close. All one hundred fourteen of us sleep in the hull nearly on top of eachother. Every now and then, one of the crew members, John, will put up canvas tarps for us as separation. It doesn’t help. A majority of us could not find our sea legs for weeks and there is no such thing as bathing while on a voyage across the ocean.
I am tired of eating mutton and broth every night. It no longer tastes delicious, but bitter and is a reminder that we still have not reached land yet. For my ninth birthday, John and Papá brought me to the captain’s quarters. I was given a gold coin from Señor Oglethorpe and put it in the seam of my plain, white cotton dress now caked in dirt, water, and sweat. Mother found it that night and gave me a light beating. “Girls of your age should not be fantasizing like that. You should be growing to a young lady, not a bloody pretender!” She took my coin away and later dropped it in the ocean.
Yet, that is the past. Eighteen days ago we landed in Charles Town. Señor Oglethorpe met with some man named Robert Johnson. Mother refused to learn any details, but Papá told me all that he heard. Of course, he whispered in Spanish, a language only he and I understood. Johnson wanted to use us as a wall against the natives there. I’ve seen sketches of these natives. Everyone says they are the enemy.
On January 30th, or there abouts, we boarded smaller ships and began heading inland. We shared ours with Oglethorpe and John, who is only thirteen years old, and several others. This morning, John pointed at the sky. “A storm. No doubts.” Yet, we continued. Just a couple hours ago, we were forced to head inland. So, here we are to stay.
It is far warmer here than England. The air is rather sticky for it being winter. A group of natives camp further from the river bank. When Mother wasn’t looking, I snuck away to watch them. I climbed one of many trees and watched them. They were not harmful at all, just normal people with painted faces. One laid eyes on me. He was a fit man with soft eyes. Not a beast. I waved and then led him back to where the ships were. He introduced himself as Tomo-Chi-Chi, leader of the local Creek Indians. Instantly, Oglethorpe showed friendliness.
Maybe life in the New World will not be so bad after all. Sorry, not the “New World,” Georgia.
March 9th, 1733
I hate bloody Georgia! “A land of new opportunities! A place where we can start life over!” That is an overstatement by far. If it was such a good place then my face would not be stained with dirt and tears. Since the first week we were here it has been nothing but work, work, and more work. The local Creek Indians help us as much as they can, yet it seems like the toil is endless. My skin has browned and turned to leather. My hands callused and raw. My dress has seen its days being covered in mud, sweat, dirt and tears. We began by planting mulberry trees every ten acres for the silkworms. Papá laughs and says my dancing feet are más negro del cielo para noche, or blacker than the night sky. It is not funny. I used to use these feet for dancing on the cobblestone streets, not to walk across pastures to plant trees to feed worms. I would rather feed myself before the worms. Mother would give me a beating if she saw what I wrote the past few days. “Be positive, selfless, and kind. Corazón, these are the ways of a proper English woman.” Well, we are no longer in England and I am not completely English. That would be another beating, so I simply bite my tongue. Life here takes toll on the body without any outside influences.
Mother. The word is like a thorn, which I know now how it feels after my clumsiness led me into a bush filled with climbing buckthorns. In fact, the scabs are still present and there are still leaves in my hair. Anyhow, Mother became ill shortly after we arrived here. Doctor William Cox tried his best with treatments, yet nothing could bring her back up. It started with sudden nausea, so Papá and I thought it was from stepping on steady land after being so long in a boat. Then, it was severe pain in her back and decreased appetite. Over several days, she was too tired to even sit up with chills and an extremely high fever. During her last week, her skin turned almost a pale yellow and her heart began slowing. Despite what Papá and Señor Cox said, I laid next to her hearing the last beats of her heart. Mother kissed my sweaty forehead and whispered one word, My Corazón, as the final beat stopped. Instantly, tears filled my eyes and I came out running to my father. Doctor Cox pulled me away kicking and screaming because he thought I had contracted the ailment. Luckily, my immune system was so high that I did not.
Papá, on the other hand, did not cry. He went on planting the trees, leaving me behind. John would join me and we would talk of England and our life before. Every now and then, we would join the Creek Indian children to play traditional games. Yet nothing could remove the emptiness. Papá, John, and I held a private funeral for her one night when everyone was resting. John and Papá dug a hole by the tree I first climbed when we arrived while I sang “Amazing Grace” in both English and Spanish. After that, we all returned to work as usual.
Without Mother, my tongue became more free, which led me into some trouble with the other settlers. I spend my days with the Creek Indians learning their customs and my nights next to Papá dreaming about Gravesend. Though there is little time to sleep. All the work makes one want to sleep for years, yet by the time it all ends, it is almost morning. The time we do rest, I am plagued with nightmares.
Tears now refuse to fall, for I have dried my source. John tells me that we are doing much better than the other twelve colonies- we have food, native friends, fair weather, and fairly good health. But I do not have Mother.
June 29th, 1733
Papá was still asleep when I left this morning. His face was still covered in dirt, but there was more than that. For the first time I noticed the furrows deep in his brown skin. Papá is no longer the man I used to know. Then again it was barely light out so I might have been mistaken. I grabbed this journal and a pale yellow dress I usually wear on holidays. No one was around the Savannah River so I took a long wash. It was one of the best moments since we arrived. But it gets better.
Once the sun rose, I had finished my swim and bath and had changed into the dress. Barefoot, I ran to Mother’s grave and talked for hours to the wooden cross. A gentle breeze blew my hair back the way Mother used to do when she braided it. When I looked up there was John hanging from a branch like a wild animal. He smiled and pointed the Indian Camp. Understanding, I sat up and ran through the mulberry trees until we reached the camp. It was a fairly short journey, but the sun was up when we arrived. The Creek Indians were up doing their daily chores already. John and I played with the little ones until noon. Tomo-chi-chi gave us each our own face paint and a pair of moccasins during the stories.
As we were heading back, three deer jolted in front of us. Thrilled, we followed them with curiosity. It was not until we reached a small brook did we look at our surroundings. The deer-gone. Scared by something moving in the woods. I will admit that I took cover behind John like a coward. Suddenly, two men with facial hair like rabbits on their chins and covered in metal pushed aside several branches and into the clearing. They sat down, took a drink, and chattered. With my fear subsiding, I approached them and asked about our colony. One drew his sword after locking eyes. All I remember is John grabbing my wrist and we took off as fast as we could. Later I learned they were Spanish.
We eventually made it back to the settlement by nightfall. I collapsed aside Papá and rambled about the day. He gave me a stern face, which simply made me laugh. He wiped my round face clean and pointed to the tear in my best dress. Papá removed a couple leaves tangled within my locks before kissing my forehead and carrying me to the makeshift bed. He whispered a family story as I drifted off.
That night was my first without any night terrors. Instead dreams of Mother, Papá, and I living in a house like a castle with acres of land behind us. A happy family with no problems like we had in Gravesend. Perhaps it will be like that one day. If anyone ever asks what I desire more than anything...it is that. The three of us together making a prosperous life of our own here in a Georgia- a land not to awful afterall.
I may have extra chores for the next week, but it was worth it to have a day like that.
February 1st, 1753
Twenty years ago we landed here. A group of financially unstable commoners who risked our lives because we thought of a better world across the ocean that only so many had ever touched. We fantasized that our lives would get better by gambling everything. We were crazy. And yet we made it.
I had just found this journal last night tucked in a corner. It has been years since I had last written. Looking back, I am realizing how insane I was when younger. This is the last page in the journal...it deserves to be filled like the others. Mother will not strike me for what I write in here anymore, so I might as well tell it all.
On October 5th, 1739, Tomo-chi-chi passed of illness. I attended the ceremony. The Creek Indians are still thriving greatly and the bonds still stand.
I have settled down a bit. My tongue is now controlled, for the most part anyway. Others will say otherwise. My wild side has tamed, but the fire still burns within me. John is still by my side through it all. In fact, in 1742, we were wed. Now, we have two boys, William and Álvaro, both of whom are eight. Hannah, named for Mother, is three.
Papá left us on August 16th, 1745 at fifty-five years of age. The cause is still unknown. John and I buried him next to Mother. Technically, I am an orphan, but my new family replaces the old in such a way I cannot explain through words in this journal.
I am sitting on the bank of the Savannah River exactly where we landed that first day. The children splash in the current with smiles upon their dirt-covered faces. For once I understand the meaning of life. We came here with nothing, picked up all that we had established back halfway across the world, to come here for something called happiness. It doesn’t matter if the odds are against us, what matters is that we stay hopeful and always seek better, but not without remembering that what we all have is special and could be taken at any second. When I was eight years old beginning this journal, I thought this change would destroy me, kill me. It did not. If anything, all that happened changed me.
So, I joined them in the river letting it bring back the past twenty years. The pain. The joy. All of it. Something brushed against the sole of my foot when I stepped in. Underneath the mud was a gold coin. The gold coin Mother threw off board twenty years ago. A little worn, but still stronger than ever. As I rubbed my fingers against it, Mother’s face appeared before me. Her final heartbeat like a drum in my ears. Her last words...My Corazón. My heart. The first and last time she used my actual name. A little smile came to my face when I turned toward Hannah and placed the prize in her tiny fist.
There is no more room left in this journal. Perhaps I shall bury this between Mother and Papá after this entry. Even if this colony does not last, what I have will because I have a rare beginning and middle. And I will never forget it.