When we climbed up onto that heaving vessel, salty air whipping up the skirts about our ankles, I turned to you as you squeezed my hand and you said something I couldn’t hear properly. I bent down towards you and you spoke again. “Does God watch over the sea as well as the land?” came your worried little plea. You were five then, and we would be at sea so long. The Mayflower inspired more to follow. Droves of us wrapped our bible and our bread into our linens, and stepped aboard these manmade beasts that must outwit the raging sea.
Some days the water seemed soothing, but often the smallest children and the elders would be hurling their modest meals over the edge of the boat. When we found a bedstack to share, I tucked you up near my chest, and we kept each other warm. I could hear just the movement of your lips, ushering the Lord’s Prayer, for what seemed like hours till He took you to sleep. You were so scared that the sea was pagan, or that God couldn’t see us here. But finally, two days after your sixth birthday we arrived. The preacher took your hand as we stepped down, delirious to be on still ground.
We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We’d been anticipating it all for so long, and you were so little. You were so small that I often forgot you were now a proper child; you still looked like a baby in my eyes. God had made you strong, if thin, and I thanked him for that. You never came down with sickness the way other children so often did and I granted myself some credit for that, when I gave you the best broths and medicines I could find the ingredients for. Back in Suffolk I had sold sweetmeats on the roads into towns and life had been hard there but you won’t remember much… I helped other ladies in the village, too, and I always had a rabble of children at my feet. But here, little sister, it is just you and me.
I raised you alone, but you turned out mild and clean and sweet, so I say that God blessed me with an easier challenge than other folk get. I thought I’d never marry, what with us being a pair to take on, not just me, but I was verger to our preacher when we got to America, and our lives were hard but fair. I knew only one other passenger, before we boarded that boat, Cathy Lennox, and she was a good friend to keep, till the scurvy took her up to heaven. So I was one of the quiet ones, but I found peace amongst those people. We all had a desire to work hard, live modestly, and remember God in everything, so I was pleased to raise you there, and felt content to live amongst them.
There were wild things in the woods some nights, and I’d never met a native, but our house was strong, and crops grew well, and God gave us strength. The early days were long, and busy, tiresome and hungry, but we settled into our ways, and once the church was ready, the houses were up, the animals penned, we wanted for nothing more. Years later, Jeb Roberts came to me and asked for your hand. I told him to ask you before I could give any blessing. That was the day I thought I’d lost you to the pattern of life, and you’d move out to a house that Jeb would build, but you cared for me as I grew old, and kept me at your table, and loved me as the mother I’d been to you. And that pagan sea swam right up to the land each night, and kept us safe from the England we fled, and the darkness we ran from. Life was hard, and we lived it best we could. As I go to sleep now, I will carry you, dear little sister in my heart, all the way up to heaven, to sit with Him, and take my rest.