Ann and Anna, (serial short story, Part 4): Home

       Part 1: Nightmare, Part 2: Hope, Part 3: Trust…       

     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.


Action Items:

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:
1. #PublicLibraries,
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Read, Write

-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

Shira Destinie

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.


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67 thoughts on “Ann and Anna, (serial short story, Part 4): Home

    1. Thank you, although I cannot really take the credit for the named by a tree idea, as it happened to me in real life.

      Desperately working on Part 5 now (ok, after today’s edits on Do Better’s 1st draft are done…)!

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Ok, so I moved up to New Hampshire, having gotten a job in Boston, and met a lady who invited me to a local Native American gathering. I said that while I was appreciative of her invitation, I was not even sure if I had any native American blood, but she insisted that I come meet these nice people, and learn a bit more, so I went along. At some point after explaining that I really had no idea, apart from enslaved ancestors in VA, what my heritage might be, the lead person asserted that I was indeed a mixed-blood American Indian (her certainty), and invited me into the ritual circle. Afterward, while talking, I retreated for a while, needing solitude, and climbed up into the branch of a large (pine?) tree, just to be out of sight and alone. She called me down to ask a question, discuss some ideas, and then told me, as we walked back to the main gathering, that “that tree has named you.” And she whispered a name into my ear. I hated it immediately, and have been trying to forget it, ever since! But, I also got an impression right away, as I looked back at the tree in not entirely grateful interest, that she was not entirely bonkers.
          To my fascination and sorrow, the lady who had brought me to the gathering was quite angry, as we drove back. She complained that she’d attended many of their gatherings, contributed and such, and never gotten such an honor. I, in her opinion, was neither grateful nor worthy of the honor she felt I had received, and she felt it was not fair. I suppose I should mention that there was no fanfare, no ritual, no anything, with that naming, just the whisper of the name in my ear. In fact, I think only these two people even heard the entire conversation in which I was “named.”
          So, that’s how I got the name I didn’t want from very large tree that I still cannot forget, up in an old growth forest in the state of New Hampshire.

          Seems even trees don’t like my own name for myself, let alone my blood family.
          My Hebrew name is still simpler.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Interesting. I must contemplate it more, since I clearly did not appreciate it sufficiently at the time, and I clearly need to appreciate it more, still.
              Let me rest, as I am currently exhausted, and getting to the ‘too tired to touch a computer’ stage.

              But , thank you for helping me to appreciate my experience…

              Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, lady? Among slaves, she’d have had a rather ‘special’ status: a “Fancy” was the highest priced slave on the market, often selling for more than a good field hand, depending on the location and the time Some sales of spectacular prices, like one of dollars as I recall reading, and others in the


            1. Hmm, well, in a traumatized person, that sweetness or empathy must always be weighed, I think, against the (assuming that’s what you mean by her being a lady) fact that the possible reactions to trauma are either bitterness/hatred, or overly-empathetic/martyr/savior complex, most often. It’s very difficult, and rare, to see anything else, and that genteel behavior is at least partly generated by the habit of being polite as a means of self-preservation. What happens when you put a bit of power into her hands, I wonder? How, then, does she behave?


            2. 🙂
              What a gentleman you are, Petru.
              After pondering this a bit more, I realized that the only case that comes to mind of a woman tried (and hanged) for killing her sexually abusive owner was in another border state: Missouri. Anne Marie Weems is from the closest border state, MD, but Willow, the one who bends and weeps, but never breaks, only just barley, is from Virginia. Not a border state. And one of the harshest. Up until about 1833 or so, MD was relatively easy-going for colored folks, if I read my Philips (author of “Freedom’s Port”) correctly. So, Willow had no models to see of slave rebellion, or of fighting back, really, under constant vigilance in the house as she was all her life. She was also taught that any act or thought of non-compliance on her part would result in drastic pain for her loved ones. So that taught her from the youngest age to fear more for others, as she does for Anna and even for old Mary, than for herself. She’s learned to tolerate a very high level of physical and emotional pain, and so that now feels normal to her.
              The concept of removing the king from his throne is not even part of her universe, yet.

              She needs Anna to teach her those things.


            3. *sigh*
              Lots of therapy, and lots of kung fu, and even more pondering. I merely hope that these insights can be helpful to others, and that the books I write move as my children in the world, building empathy and tools for our shared problem-solving, so that I can feel my life to have brought forth something of value.


    2. my comment just stopped showing!
      Anyway, Willow, or Ann, as the white people call her, is in a separate category, being a “Fancy” -her market value is extremely high, despite her lack of labor value. Most good field hands sold for more than many Fancies, but there are a few records of spectacular prices, for Fancies who could pass, or were exceptionally beautiful. So, she’d have been treated, much like Sally Hemings, almost like a white woman: dressed in elegant clothing, taught to embroider, and given only minimal duties (as Sally was officially Pres. Jefferson’s chamber maid, a job nearly synonymous with ‘mistress’ at the time, as many men would not marry a white servant woman if she’d held that job in a household…).

      So, while Ann/Willow is taught to behave like a lady, she is not one, and she is reminded of that fact early and often.



    3. These are details I must remember to sprinkle in as backstory, thank you. Some of it I’ve dropped in as hints when she recalls Virginia, or the Senator. That one still gets me in the gut when I think of it, because it came from an old family secret on my father’s mother’s side. Apparently one her her sisters passed, thus being lost to the family, and another was “kept” by a Virgina senator, maybe during or before the time of the Great Depression. While both of these facts were sources of great shame for my grandmother, a respectable Booth, they are actually not terribly uncommon for familes like mine. My gr. aunt, not the nun but the other one (sister to my gr. grandmother), was a domestic in a white household upon arriving in DC, and had been back up north from the age of 13, which a priest had told my 2xsgr grandmother was not safe. So both sides of my family are light-skinned, had members who betrayed us by passing for white and leaving (any contact risked being ‘outted’ as Black) us. The behavioral expectations are noticably different from those of many of my darker skinned friends, and even some parts of my own family. Narratives like Toni Morrison’s “They” (a short short I cannot find, but similar, it seems, to her story hit uncomfortably home, and this goes back to the era of Willow/Ann.


        1. Yup, all from the same source, and something that will require much more empathy on all of our parts to help resolve. All around the world. I hope that this series can be part of that solution, somehow. And thank you for being part of the solution, Petru.



    1. Nicely spotted!

      Willow mentions (in her thoughts) that they’d had to change plans because of Mary and Sal’s panic, but I’ve not yet had a chance to explain that: goes with the explanation about the horses’ training.

      (I think I may have let that thought go a bit too long…)

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Ugh, where to put the backstory on this! Readers need to know this, but I’d just assumed that they would, as most Black folks here in the US know about the Quilts as messages, and about the Grapevine, from stories about Harriet Tubman. Now, I have to figure out where and how to drop that information (dribble, actually) in: I was planning to explain Old Mary and her companion horse as they leave the doctor’s Station. This will be alot more info. to fit in, and in some interesting fashion. Ah, how challenging it is to write fiction!!
      Thank you for this heads up, Petru!

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Of course not! If I hadn’t expected feedback of some kind, I’d not have posted it on my blog. I am very glad to have your feedback, which is extremely helpful, not to mention encouraging as well. To see the difference from your first comments on Hubris and Hemlock those years back, to these comments on Ann&Anna, I can see my progress as a writer, and also where I need to improve: what more can a writer ask for?


          We need readers like you, Petru, I need your nose!

          Liked by 1 person

      1. Actually, Willow is wrong about the change of plans: the white men were only meant to bring two horses to begin with, just distribution changed, and obviously there was more room in the wagon at the very start.

        Liked by 1 person

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