Chapter 1: The Voyage Begins
At twenty-two years old, Jane McClusky held her three year old son's hand, and embarked on a transcontinental journey. With two bags full of clothing, a few coins in her pocket, and the hopes and dreams in her head of a better life in America, she climbed the wooden ramp onto the ship. This was the first time she had ever been away from her little farming community with its one room mud homes, crushed spirits, and familiar faces. Now she was surrounded by various languages she could not understand, was being pounded by passersby, and was engulfed by the stench of body odor, sweat, and fear.
She could no longer see her husband, Thomas, whom she had left on the dock. Liam did not seem to be upset by leaving him, but she doubted that at his age he understood how long they would be separated. She knew that her brother, Michael would look after Thomas, as they had grown up together as best friends.
She was terrified knowing that her future lay in the hands of a cousin in Philadelphia whom she had never met while her 30 year old husband was staying behind in Ireland until he could raise appropriate funds for his voyage. She and Thomas had been married for almost five years, and he was a very protective and loving husband. Unlike some of her friends' older husbands, he was never cross or controlling, but she thought that had to do with the closeness of their upbringing. Although they had known each other all their lives, when Thomas finally saw Jane as a woman for the first time, a thunderbolt struck through his heart. He promised her his undying love within a few weeks, within months they were married, and soon their first child, Liam, was born. Since then, Jane had gone through two more pregnancies, but did not carry to term. The heartache of a mother losing a child cannot be measured, but Jane was determined to find a better life for the child she still had.
In their little village, the life expectancy was about forty years; hunger or disease being the main culprits for early death. She had accepted the fact that Thomas may not live long enough to see their children grown, but often, the children themselves were taken by disease before puberty. It was a fact of life in Ireland, due to poor hygiene, bad health care, and lack of food. The summer months were called the "starving months" because the crops from the prior year did not last the whole way through the summer season. When fall came about, tables and bellies were once again filled with food, and of course, potatoes. That is, until the next summer arrived.
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