One Quiet Whisper
Author's note: This story is based on the life of my wonderful grandmother, and amazing grandfather. May he rest... Show full author's note »
LEAVINGMama! Mama! Are we there yet?” Fransiska asked. She was bounding along side her parents, while holding hands with her older brother, Reinhardt, and her grandmother.
“We’ll be there soon, just a few more blocks.”
“Rhiny, come help your mother and I with this trunk.” Fransiska’s father demanded.
“Yes father,” Reinhardt said as he released his sister’s hand and raced over to help his mother and father with their last processions’ that they were taking with them to their new home in America.
“All aboard!” a crew member yelled from aboard the retired war vessel. All the hustle and bustle of the Swiss rushing about, made Fransiska a little nervous, but mostly excited.
“Mama! Mama! How long will it take us to get to America?” she asked, while tugging on her mother’s shirt.
“About 12-14 days, dear,” she answered.
“Now come along, and say goodbye to your father. He is going to be spending the voyage on the upper section of the ship with the other men,” Mother informed her two children.
“But--- but---no! Papa! I want you to stay!” Fransiska cried. He crouched down to her level.
“I’m sorry darling, but I will see you again soon. I’ll see you in America!” he told her. Fransiska buried her tiny head in the crook of his neck, her long, wavy cocoa hair tickling his cheek.
“Bye, papa.” She whispered between sniffles, and tears.
“It’ll be okay sweetie. Don’t you worry. Now, put on that beautiful smile of yours and wipe away those tears.” He smiled sadly. “Cheer up,” he lifter her chin with his finger so she was forced to look him in the eyes. “We’re going to America.”
Fransiska drew her sleeve up to wipe her nose. “Okay,” she said, “Bye.” Her dad then turned to Reinhardt.
“You take good care of these three women young man,” he told Rhiny.
“Yes sir,” he said, but didn’t look up.
“Well this is quite dreary.” Grandma stated, as she walked with her daughter and two grandchildren into the Women and children’s’ dormitory. It was fairly small and there were a ton of women and children.
“Don’t worry mom. We’ll get to our dorm, and I’m sure that’ll be nicer.”
The room was anything but nice. The four of them had to share the room with another family of three, and there were only four hard, small beds, in the tiny, dull, gray room.
“You’re right dear, this is so much better,” Grandma said. Her daughter just rolled her eyes and went over to greet the family they would be sharing the room with.
“Hello, I’m Betty. This is my mother we call her Grandma and my two children, Fransiska and Reinhardt.”
“Pleased to meet you. I’m Elizabeth, and these are my two kids, Caroline and Sheria,” Elizabeth spoke indicating towards two small girls beside her. Caroline looked about three or four, Fransiska’s age. And Sheria looked about ten, a few years older than Rhiny.
“I WANT MY PAPA!” Fransiska cried. She was lying across her tiny bed, flailing her arms and legs about. “PAPA!” she screamed a high pitched shrill as she banged her fists against the flimsy mattress.
“Now, child, you need to stop screaming,” Grandma spoke sternly. “The crew will think I’m beating you!” This only made Fransiska scream louder.
“BUT I WANT MY PAPA RIGHT NOW!”
“If you don’t stop now, I may have to beat you.” Fransiska stifled a scream when her grandmother brought her hand up in a threatening position.
“O---okay gran---grandma.” She spoke between quiet hiccupping sobs.
Three days into the voyage, the refrigeration stopped working, and they were forced to resort to canned food, milk and warm water.
“Come on sweetie, drink your milk,” Betty enticed Fransiska.
“No! It’s not real!”
“Yes it is! Now do as your mother says!” Grandma demanded.
“But it’s not REAL!” Fransiska insisted.
“It’s really not that bad sis,” Rhiny said.
“YES IT IS!”
“You haven’t even tried it,” he said.
“SO! I STILL KNOW IT’S YUCKY!” Fransiska spoke matter-of-factly.
“Do you want your teeth to fall out and your bones break with every step you take?” Grandma asked. Fransiska stared at her in horror. “Well? Do you?” Fransiska shook her head vigorously. “Then drink your damn milk!”
“MOM!” Betty warned. “Not around the children!”
“That girl needs some sense knocked into her.”
“Why don’t you let me be the mom to my children, and you just stay out of it?!”
“That is no way to speak to your mother!” Grandma countered, shooting her daughter an angry glare, then quietly added to herself, “Now I see where Fransiska gets her attitude from,” as she stood up and left to return to their dorm.
“Do I still have to drink it?” Fransiska asked in a small, quiet voice.
“I would prefer you to, but no, I will not make you drink it.”
After gazing at the white liquid for quite some time, Fransiska picked up the cup and took a small sip.
Eleven days into the trip, and all of the children, and adults, were jittery, and anxious. Everybody wanted to run around, and stretch out their legs. All the passengers and crew wanted fresh food, and comfortable space.
“Just a few more days,” the crew kept saying. Just a few more days . . .