Continued from September 30. 2016
But now Advent was only a few days away. Rosalia was glad for the Christmas preparations for they would provide a much needed distraction. Four short weeks to clean the house, whitewash the log walls, lug heavy rugs outdoors and beat them of months of accumulated dust and dirt.
Because of her skills with needle and thread, the village priest had asked Rosalia to help with the children’s annual nativity play. She wasn’t happy with the extra demands this would make on her days but she couldn’t pass up the gleeful anticipation on the children’s faces when she told the story of how, if they were very quiet and very good, they would hear their farm animals talk at midnight on Christmas Eve.
By Christmas Eve the baking, the chopping, the boiling, the roasting were finished. Rosalia stared at the abundance; a table like this would not be repeated until Easter. The rest of the year’s meals would be dominated by beets, turnips, potatoes.
The Christmas tree was up, decorated with candles and a star on the top. Rosalia’s favorite ornaments were the handmade decorations made of straw. She cradled the stars she and her sisters had braided each year and wondered who would get the honor of breaking one of the decorations, thus scaring the evil out of the house for the following year.
But always, always her thoughts drifted back to America. Would the trip happen? Could it?
It was another five months before Rosalia got the letter she’d been waiting for from her cousin in America, the letter that would prove to authorities that she had not only a sponsor in America but a job.
“My Dear Cousin Rosa,” it read. “I apologize for being so slow to answer your questions. But at last I am happy to tell you that I found you a job in the restaurant where I work. There is a small apartment upstairs that you may share with five other girls. I will lend you the money you will need to get from New York to Chicago.”
Jan’s letter was brief but it contained enough information for Rosa to know that the time for dreaming was over. She folded the letter into her passport. Now she had to find a way to tell her mother she would be leaving, most likely never to return.
Back in her attic room that evening, she pulled back the down filled pierzyna and reached under the ancient mattress. The Hamburg America steamship flyer was gone. She had no other contact for information on how to get to the USA. Her sister might have hidden it but she wouldn’t have destroyed it, and there weren’t many places Katarzyna could have hidden it in that sparse, dark space. Had she given it to their mother?
Rosalia heard her mother’s heavy shoes on the stairs.
“Is this what you are looking for?” Her mother’s icy words were sharp in Rosalia’s ears. She and her mother had never been close. Now she wondered if she was about to break her mother’s heart.