We were on our way again, north.
We had agreed that it seemed safer to travel by night, despite my fear of getting lost.
Anna had shown me how to find the Pole star, explaining that we had come up 16th Street and out the Rockville Pike from the President’s House. Now that we were off of the main roads, keeping a close watch on our direction and on how far we traveled each hour were very important. We had left Rockville heading North, and should cross into Pennsylvania after several days at this pace. Anna set a walking pace just quick enough not to tire old Mary, but slow enough to talk quietly along the way. Pine needles underfoot muffled the sound of our travel as they perfumed our air. I’d never known how peaceful the woods could be.
“What did you notice on the way up here, while you were hiding in that wagon?”
Her whisper carried sweet and clear to me, just as my eyes had begun to close, old Mary’s steady rhythm lulling me half to sleep now that I’d grown used to her gait.
“Well, we seemed to be on the road the whole way, since we did not cross any water that I could hear. That must mean that we are in Maryland, now?”
Or so I fervently hoped. The Senator’s lodgings were on the Virginia side of the Potomac, and my very bones, not to mention my belly, would tell me if we had gone back to that accursed Commonwealth. My young teacher would have to prove my senses right.
“Very good, Miss Willow, and yes we are. We will make a coachman of you, yet.”
I found myself blushing under her praise as if I were back with Miss Mary, just learning how to embroider my first flower. My old Mary, here and now, seemed to be getting tired of our journey, straying every so often to the clumps of tall grass. We must all be hungry, now, but we kept going, a little slower, but steadily onward.
“Give her head a little tug, to remind her that we can’t stop to eat just yet.” I hated to do it, but a small pull on the reins was enough, and the horse kindly remembered that she was my mount, and must keep going. She was far more bidable than I had imagined any beast of this size could be.
Now we would continue to go up, cutting across country for a while, in spite of the November cold, until we met a Dr. H. Anna would be his coachman, driving under the name of Joe Wright, up to Pennsylvania. I would have to continue hiding, but in a nicer conveyance, this time. From there, we were to go through New York, and with the help of a Rev. Freeman, obtain our way into British Canada, and freedom.
“Will we have need of these horses for very long?”
I imagined that my poor horse must be as hungry as I was, chomping at her bit as she did. My dear Mary’s panic had changed Anna’s plan for escape, raising a ruckus as she had back at the President’s House. Poor Mary and little Sal. But now was not yet the time to mourn for them. Now, all of Maryland would be looking for us, with the practiced hand of a slave trader like Charles Price still on her heels, and the Senator, to boot.
“Don’t you worry, they’ll be alright.”
How did she do that? I was glad to have Anna here to keep me from getting lost, both in my thoughts and in the woods.
Still, I fretted. Will she really be able to teach me anything of use? I had always been told that to do my embroidery, not even real needle work, was the best thing I could do, and nothing more. Not even sew any real clothing. Mary always did that for me, to prevent my accidentally sticking myself with a proper sewing needle. I was surprised that they ever trusted me with a pair of scissors, but I could hardly ruin my teeth to cut off my embroidery floss, now, could I? So, a tiny pair of scissors I was permitted. But big enough to do the job I no longer wanted to do. My left arm still bore the scar. That scar seemed to lead to where family ought to be.
I had heard rumors about my family, from the older folks talking in the kitchen when they thought I wasn’t listening. Some of the old folks said that I had a cousin, a brilliant quadroon named Miles Manzilla. Must have been, to have his own name. They said his daddy was a titheable slave, once owned by some Terrells or Cobbs, Quakers, a long time ago, around about the first war with Britain. Said he spoke three languages, just a child. The story was that this little boy was sold north and even freed by the Quakers years ago, but his people, daddy and an uncle named Lot and Jesse, stayed here in Virginia, Caroline County way. How they knew this I did not know, nor whether it was truth or tale. The Senator had bought me so long ago that I remembered nothing of my former life, home, or if I even had any family. I had always belonged to that man, having grown up under his watchful eye. Had never known anything else. The trips with him to the Federal City seemed long journeys, but he took me with him only a few times, when he had long stretches of business to attend to in the Senate. It was one of these times that we were finally able to make a workable plan to get away. Or at least it seemed workable, though work it did not, for poor Mary or for little Sal.
Just as my thoughts were turning back to that melancholy scene, Anna broke through with her question:
“So, Miss Willow, do you ever intend to tell me why they call you that?”
That was a very good question, in point of fact. I wasn’t sure whether I really had the right to answer, given the means by which I had obtained that particular name. But I did not have the right to keep my young friend here in the dark, as our surroundings, both physical and spiritual, were already dark enough for my taste. So, I took a deep breath,
“Well, Miss Anna, I don’t know if I’m the best placed to answer that question, truth be told.”
She gave me a look that I could see in the dark. It was not a kindly look.
“Well, now that is a new one on me! If you don’t want to tell me, then just say so, but I cannot fathom why you’d be ill placed to tell me.”
She did not sound amused. Yet again, I had managed to insult someone I cared for, even if she did not know that, yet.
“I have offended you, and I deeply regret that. But you must let me explain first. You see, my name, or as folks say my real name, was not given to me by just anyone.”
“Well then who gave it to you?”
“Please don’t take offense, and I mean this in all gravity.”
My hesitation only seemed to further insult her. “Then who?”
“I was named by an old, old tree.”
This has been a scene from my new short story Ann&Anna. I hope that this series will move you to learn more ways to help use our history to build new tools.
Part 5: Names will post next Sunday.
I look forward to your thoughts.
1.) What are your thoughts on using history, and giving new names, to learn to adapt, in the here and now?
2.) Share your thoughts on how this story may help, or hinder, inclusive thinking.
4.) Write a story, post or tweet that uses those thoughts.
Dear Readers, ideas on learning, especially multiple #LanguageLearning, on-going education and empathy-building, to #EndPoverty, #EndHomelessness, #EndMoneyBail & achieve freedom for All HumanKind?
Support our key #PublicDomainInfrastructure & #StopSmoking at least for CCOVID-19:
2. #ProBono legal aid and Education,
3. #UniversalHealthCare, and
4. good #publictransport
-we can learn from the past Stayed on Freedom’s Call for free,
by Teaching and Learning (Lesson Plans offline) in the present, to
help us all Do Better to build a kinder and safer future for all of us…
Peace ! שָׁלוֹם
the year, 2021 CE = year 12021 HE
(Online pdfs of 5 month GED lesson 13 of 67 plans…), and
Babylon 5 review posts, from a Ranger’s PoV: how story inspires learning…)
Stayed on Freedom’s Call
includes two ‘imagination-rich’ walking tours, with songs, of Washington, DC. New interviews and research are woven into stories of old struggles shared by both the Jewish and African-American communities in the capital city.
Shared histories are explored from a new perspective of cultural parallels and parallel institution-building which brought the two communities together culturally and historically.
Please leave a review, if you can, on the GoodReads page.
Shira Destinie Jones is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.