When my Father Left

February 6, 2018
By , Turner, ME

May 21, 1829


I just spent the last hour balling my eyes out. Not because I am upset. No, not at all that. I am devastated. My father left our small home in search of a piece of land for the new home he is going to build. Father has not told us where but, I hope it is not too far. My mother said he would back soon although I know that isn’t true. I even heard my father say that he wouldn’t be back for 12 months at the most. 9 at the least. That means we have to survive, on our own, for almost a year! How could he ever expect my mother to handle us for that long on her own! It seems impossible but, it has to be possible because we are beginning this now with no turning back.

June 15, 1829


I am kind of glad Father left when he did. There is no fire needed in the house so, we don’t have to worry about Adam burning the house down. Plus, it is beginning to get warmer so Mother, Mary, Caroline, and I can do a lot of our sewing and knitting on the front porch in the morning breeze. It is also nice for Bennett and John who can roll around in the grass while we sew and knit our clothing. It bothers my mother that they roll around and get grass stains all over them when  honestly, I don’t mind scrubbing them out. It is better than having to remain inside all day in a cramped house with seven other people. Adam usually takes Henry to the woods on these kinds of mornings. This summer was supposed to be Henry’s learning summer so Adam has to fill in as much as he can for Father. Henry is seven years old so in Father’s eyes he should know how to prepare a fire, split wood, and keep a fire going. Easier said than done. Adam knew how to at six. Now that Adam is fourteen it is time for him to turn around and teach someone else. Although, I am fairly certain that he is not that great of a teacher or helper because on most days, after about an hour, Henry always runs from the woods, crying, and goes inside.


July 30, 1829


Most of this summer has been quite nice so far. I enjoy not hearing Father yell at Adam to pick up the slack or, stop being the awful child you have always been. Henry hasn’t gone to the woods much since the beginning of summer because he claims that Adam is never going to teach him anything so why bother. Which is true. So most of the time we put him to work around the house. It’s mostly sweeping the floors and taking care of Bennett, but he does a lot of other things too. Mary and I have gotten almost all of the clothes and blankets ready that we are going to need for winter. One of the quilts we made has really soft fabrics on it so, we sort of claimed it as ours. Mother doesn’t know that yet. We hid that quilt under our bed and packed it away with our favorite sets of hats, mittens, and socks. We even sewed Mary and Jane on the front so no one could claim it as theirs. I look at it as you get whatever the people who knit and sewed it don’t want. It seemed like the fairest method. Mary and I aren’t your typical sisters. She is my best friend. We do everything together. I am eleven and she is nine. So we are pretty close in age which I think makes us even closer. At times I feel bad because Caroline will never have a sister that is that close in age to her. She is four. Five whole years younger than Mary and seven younger than me. I guess that’s okay though since she has her twin, John. They are pretty good friends. They do most things together. Maybe someday they will become as good of friends as Mary and me.


August 21, 1829


Today makes exactly 3 months since my father left and no one has a clue as to when he is getting back. Everyone in the house has become very anxious and depressed. No one is getting along or trying to help out any more. I ball my eyes out when I hear Adam and Henry fight. It is constant. The fighting is the worst it has ever been because Father isn't here to settle their arguments. It’s aggravating because no one can stop it. I think they should act their age and settle their matters differently. However, that’s not the “brotherly way”, as Adam puts it. Mary, Caroline, and I are pretty upset about Father leaving for such a long time. In my opinion, John is having the most trouble out of all of us. Last night, around 11 o'clock, John woke up screaming because he remembered what he and Father always do on August 20. It made no sense as to why he was upset until he told me what they do. Every year since John turned one, Father would take him out, a mile or so in the woods. John would pick a rock to sit on and they would look up at the stars and name each and every one until John would get so tired he would almost fall asleep. Father did this for him so John could have some alone time with his father. We all have special things we do with him, but this is the most special because it only happens once a year. So, I grabbed our coats and we put on our shoes and instead of going to the one rock a mile in the woods we walked about 20 yards in the woods. We sat on a rock and for 30 minutes we named the stars,  one after another. Around midnight he fell asleep and I carried him back to his bed. As I put the covers back over him he woke up again, looked at me, and thanked me for everything.


October 2, 1829


My sister Caroline is ill. Not the kind you just get over in a week or two and are fine for the rest of your life. She is the kind of ill that people either never fully recover or lose the battle against the illness completely. My brother Adam left 3 days ago, on the only horse we have left, to ride to the doctor's house. When the doctor showed up yesterday he looked very shocked when he saw her. Caroline cried because of how much pain she was in while literally laying in the bed she was going to die in. Mother clutched Caroline’s arm and through her tears told her that everything was going to be okay. Although the doctor's words to Adam and I were the exact opposite. He told us that since we are the oldest we really need to make these last few weeks with Caroline the best she has ever had. He also said that if she had been older she may have been able to survive through this but, she is not so there is nothing we can do except make these last few weeks the best ones of her life.


October 15, 1829


  My sister is still alive in the sense that she is still breathing. But, her spunky, colorful personality is drifting away quickly. Mary and I are in charge of making sure she is comfortable while she drifts into her forever sleep. I often find myself lying next to her playing with the wooden dolls Father made for us before he left. If our father was here he most likely wouldn’t have let Mary and I slack off like this but, he is not home right now so we don’t have to really worry. Day after day, Caroline gets weaker and weaker. And so do Mary and I. Mother tells us not to cry in front of Caroline so that she doesn’t worry about what is happening. She is, after all, only 4. After we give her hugs and kisses and say goodnight to her in the evenings, we go to the bed we once shared with her and cry until there are no tears left. Adam, Mary, and I wake her up in the mornings with a random story that we make up as we go. After the story, when she smiles and laughs, our smiles come too. Along with the tears of happiness, sadness, and fear.


November 22, 1829


The day that we had all knew was going to come, finally came. November 18, 1829, was the day my sister Caroline Smith left our world. Thankfully, I was sitting next to her when she took her last breath and said her last words.  A few minutes before she passe,  she looked at me and said she didn’t understand why everyone was so fearful about her dying. In the wonderful Heaven the doctor told her about, she would no longer be sick and in pain. She could eat anything she wanted and always have the freshest bread. She could play with any doll she dreamed of and dress her in any dress she wanted. She said that yeah, she would miss us, but she would be better there and that’s all that mattered. Just as she was taking her last breath she looked at Mary and I and said thanks for helping her have the best days of her life. She also said thanks for the blanket we gave her, it had the softest fabrics she had ever felt. She just wished her name was sewed on it.


December 18, 1829


Nothing has been the same since Father left. Now nothing will be the same when Father gets back. Caroline is gone and will be gone forever. I miss Caroline's smiles and her beautiful songs she used to sing Mary and I before we went to sleep every night. I miss her more than anything from before the day Father left. I try not to cry in front of Mother because I know she would break down into tears too. She has so many things going on right now and this was the last thing she needed to happen. I was shocked when Adam shed a tear over her death and actually got along with Henry for an entire week. After that week though we are back to normal. Fights and all. Mother tries to break up their fights but, when they start throwing punches, Mother is not strong enough to break it up. The only reason they fight so often is because of the age gap. They have different ideas about things. Very different ideas. Mother says that eventually, it will go away but, I am not too sure it will. Now, it gets scary when they fight because they are the sole fire providers and protectors of our family. Adam is really the only one who knows how to do all of the things that Father would be doing right now if he were here. Henry is learning, but at a very slow rate. Let me just say that Adam really is the worst teacher I have ever seen and I have not even seen that many. Henry knows the basics, like how to split wood and not chop his fingers off so, I guess that is an improvement. If Adam were to leave us than we would be okay but, not for very long. Father better get back soon or our family before we completely fall apart. I have lost one member of the family and I don't want to lose another.


February 25, 1830


No one has come since Caroline passed away. No one has left either. So, when Jameson Riddley came with news we were shocked. Mother said she doesn’t know exactly where he is from but, he is apparently a friend of Father’s and traveled with him to the new land.  Although, Mr. Riddley came back earlier because he wasn’t building a house. He went for other reasons that no one could know about. The first thing he asked when he came was to stay a few nights. He promised he would help with some winter chores that Adam struggled with. Mother okayed it since he is our father’s friend. He came in and made himself right at home as if he had been here before. He quickly mentioned he had news about our father. Everyone had different reactions to this. I was the only one that was scared. I started crying but, no one else was. I could only imagine him saying your Father died, he has gotten hurt or is not even close to finishing the house. Everyone would be so devastated. I was so grateful when his news was way better than expected. Our Father would be done in six months and soon he would be on his way to get to take us to our new home. He was a little off schedule because of the negotiation for the land. I cried harder than I had before. He was only a few months away from being able to come get us. We actually might be able to make it through the winter and the summer! Everyone was crying tears of joy except for Adam because real men don’t cry.


March 30, 1830


Jameson Riddly left our home two weeks ago and hasn’t come back since. We weren’t expecting him to, but it would be nice if he would. He brought our family joy and gave Mary and I hope. The kind that doesn’t disappear. He gave us the one that will stick with us until our father arrives. Adam and Henry have also got along better than ever since Jameson came. They no longer fight about the little differences they have. They are nice to each other and nice to John too! Mother was getting worried that John would get left out of their brother bond. So far they have actually done a nice job of including him in some of the different things they do, like bringing in some firewood and removing the snow in the path to the road. John is really growing up to be a good worker. Mary and I have spent most of our days doing things around the house. Busy work as Mother calls it. She tries to help us keep our minds off Father coming back. Mother also tries to help us keep our thoughts about Caroline happy and joyful. She keeps repeating the fact that Caroline is in a better place now. Although, I know that Caroline wasn’t looking for a better place. She loved it right here. So why did she go to a better place that she doesn’t want to be in? I guess that question will never be answered.


May 22, 1830


This month marks exactly one year since Father left. Mary and I are excited that soon he will return back home. We are making him new shirts and gloves and socks so he will be comfy when we travel to the new house. My gloves, shirts, and socks have the better stitches so hopefully, he will like them better. I hope he likes Mary’s too. We both have been working really hard to make these for him. We have also made some new clothes for the rest of our family too. Mostly socks, shirts, and hats though. We did make Mother a new dress for her birthday back in April so I guess that’s something else we made. Adam, Henry, and John have spent most of their days getting ready for the garden this year. We usually have a garden with carrots, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, cucumber, and corn. We also do a berry garden. This year we have to do it differently. Our father is supposed to come in August so we won’t have enough time to can all of the vegetables and fruits before our haul to the new house. Plus, we won’t have space in the wagon. So, we are only doing peas, carrots, corn, and potatoes. It is not much but, it is something. Most of the time we all help with the garden. This year only Adam, Henry, and John will run the garden. It will not take all of us to take care of a garden that has about a third of what we usually have. I guess that is typical though. Something not being usual. We have all gotten too used to things not being usual.


June 30, 1830


Two months left to go and our father will be home. We are all so anxious it is not even funny. We are all excited to see him again and move into our new house. Mother, Mary, Bennett, and I have been working really hard to get everything that we need for the new home ready. I know that it is still two months away but, I want to be prepared. You know just in case he shows up earlier than expected. It would be great if he could do that. It has been a long and hard year without him and we are all ready for him to come back. This morning Adam, Henry, and John are out at the garden checking on the crops while Mary and I are writing in our journals. Mary only draws in hers. She tells me not to look at it, but I always look after everytime she draws. Mary has this talent that she insists she is not good at. She draws the best things I have ever seen. Mother makes books for all of us to read when we are younger. They have a picture on every page. I thought her drawings were the best thing I had ever seen until I saw Mary’s drawings. Somehow they look real. So real that you feel as if you could step right into it and be apart of the picture. We all have talents and Mary’s talent is by far the best. My talent is sewing which is great and all. It is just not as unique as Mary’s talent. I hope that at the new house there will be a large front porch so Mary can draw the yard and I can write about it. That is my dream and I hope it will come true.


July 15, 1830


One month left. I try to say these words at least three times a day. One month left. It keeps all in check and gives us all hope. One month left. We are down to the wire. I haven’t heard any recent information on our father yet. I hope nothing has changed since we talked to Jameson five months back. We are really trusting what he said even though we don’t know who he is or how our father became friends with him. If Father is on track I will be with him in as little as 16 days. He has until the end of August to fulfill his promise. He better fulfill his promise or else he will have a few angry kids. Well, that’s a little cruel to say. Yes, we would be mad, but not forever. We would get over it quickly. As long as we got to see him again we would be happy. I can not wait until Bennett gets to see Father. He was really little when our father left. He is finally old enough to understand that this is the man that will teach him everything he has to know. He will be happy and the rest of us will be too! As the time to him coming home came closer and closer Mary and I have become busier and busier. We have made three quilts in the last month. Everything is basically in one part of the house. We are ready to leave. We are just waiting for the man we all know and love. Waiting for him to come home.


August 19, 1830,


Waiting, waiting, and more waiting. That’s all we have done for the last nineteen days. We were hoping that he would come sooner than later but, right now it looks like later. We all have no hope anymore. Except for John. He insists that our father will be home for their special tradition on August 20. It will make him so upset if Father doesn’t show up in time. I will be upset if he doesn’t show up too. I don’t want to see John cry.


August 20, 1830


I could hear the horse trotting up the road. Mother, Mary, Bennett and I were on the porch. Adam, Henry, and John heard the horse too. All of us dropped our chores and ran down the path to the road. I carried Bennett all the way down the path to where it opened out onto the road Adam and Henry didn’t stop at the end of the path they ran all the way down the road to Father. Father grabbed Adam and Henry and put them on the horse with him, while they road to the path. Father jumped off and was immediately greeted with our love and tears. I could tell he was very confused. When he left there were nine of us and now there were eight. I grabbed his hand and told him she didn’t make it. His eyes swelled and he started to cry. I guess men do cry.
After we got back to the house, Father helped us load all of our important belongings in the white wagon. It would be impossible for us to get all of the things we owned to the new house. So we took the most important things and gave the rest of the stuff to our closes neighbors. We cleaned up our house and got it ready for the new owners. Father managed to sell the house we live in now to a nice family with three children. I knew that this house would be perfect for them. It is a nice size for a smaller family like theirs. Father, Adam, Henry, and John picked the rest of the crops from the garden then came back to the house to help Mother, Mary, and I finish cleaning the floors. After we were completely finished, I gave Father the gloves and socks I made him. He loved them a lot. He was also very proud of us for making it through two summers and one harsh winter without him. He was proud of Adam for getting himself together and protecting our family to the best of his ability. He was proud of Mary and me for helping Caroline through her sickness and helping Mother after her death. He was proud of Henry for putting in a lot of effort into his schooling with Mother and his trades with Adam. He was even proud of John for going above and beyond Father’s expectations. He was proud of all of us which was the best feeling in the world.


It was dark and the stars were out. Father made it back in time for John and his tradition. This year would be the last year they would be able to do their tradition in these woods. It would be the last time they would be able to do this in Maine. John invited all of us to go with him so we did. We all named stars and sat on nearby rocks. After about an hour we all decided to leave when John came up with the best idea. We walked toward the house then took a right at the tree line. In about a minute we reached the spot where we buried our amazing sister. I picked the nearest flower and placed in on the rocks that we spelled her name with. She would have been so happy standing with us all again right then and there. I whispered I love you and squeezed Father's arm. John pulled on my arm and told me that he knew what the brightest star in the sky should be named. Caroline. It should be named after the best twin he ever had. We all shed tears to that.


October 3, 1830


The porch is huge and has a chair for each member of our family. The October breeze here feels better than you could ever imagine.  Mary and I have a bedroom together bigger than we ever thought it would be. The walls are all wood and beautiful. You can even see all of the trees with their color changing leaves from our bedroom window. Everyone is so much happier here. The journey to get to the new house was a little rocky, but, almost of us made it to our new home in Massachusetts. Our family has changed so much in the past year and a half years it is crazy. At first, I thought it was changing for the worst, but, now I realize it changed for the better in most ways. Most of us are still here and we are still helping each other like we had before my father left. Everything is becoming a new usual and I am starting to like it. I like it almost as much as the quilt Mary and I made a while ago with the soft fabrics and our name stitched in the corner. We also stitched under our names, Forever in our memory Caroline Smith, we will always miss you. Just like she wanted.






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