It was a cold winter day. I was sitting in my usual spot, in my wooden rocking chair, near the blazing fire. The fire was slowly crackling making the room feel cozy. This is my favorite part of winter. Even though I have lived a long time in Canada, I will never get accustom to the cold. I have lived my childhood in Kentucky where it is always warm. “Grandma, can you tell us a story about your past?” asked my granddaughter. I slowly opened my eyes to see my grandchildren’s happy faces looking up at mine. “Why sure I can” I said. Even though I told them my story a hundred times, I know they loved hearing it. “When I was a little girl, I had to work hard and long, till sunrise to sunset. I never really hated working in the fields but what I really disliked was how our kind the African Americans were being treated. We were beaten, neglected, and we were our master’s property by law.” “That must be awful” said my grandson. “I would never want to live a life like that.” He said it with a frown on his face. “We were never taught to read or write because our masters thought we would counterfeit their signatures and free ourselves. I did not even know how old I was. It was a bad time to be of a different culture.” “Why grandma?” asked my granddaughter. “Well, because there are some people who think they are more superior then other people.” I answered.
“Grandma, can you tell us about how you and your family went to Canada?” they both asked. “Please…” they begged. “Fine, I will tell you” I said. “Around a month before we left, the master began to be stricter and he punished us severely if we made a little mistake. Those were the dark days. We were working even longer than before with only a small time for rest and with beryl enough food to last us a day.” “How much food did you get?” they both asked. “Every morning we get a days supply of food but is was too small. It was not even half of your breakfast. And I had to share it with my family of four: my father, baby sister, and my mother.” I had to wipe my eyes dry of tears when I mentioned the last two people. But the sight of my grandchildren’s shocked faces when I said how much food we had was funny. I will always remember that day when my father said we can no longer live like this. He was right. So on one dark night we decided it was time to leave the plantation. I was scared to leave my home, but I was eager to be free. My mother asked me if I still had the doll she gave me when I was little. I thought why do I need a doll now? But she explained that attached to the inner side of the doll’s clothes was the drinking gored or the Big Dipper and the North Star. If I ever get separated from my family, I could just look up to the stars and find my way North to Canada, one of the only free places in North America.
There were a lot of near death situations on our journey, but none as close as that one time. I remembered it clearly. It was one of the most fearsome experiences of my life. We were tired from all the running and we decided to rest near a barn. But then we heard the distinctive sound of dog barks. We quickly threw pepper around the area and hid in a haystack. We used pepper to throw off the dogs’ scent. But soon enough the hunter’s dogs found us in the haystack. The hunter used a pitchfork to probe the haystack. On one of those thrusts the end of the pitchfork impaled itself into my dad’s leg. It was an immense pain but he did not make a sound. He knew if he did we would be captured. After a couple of more minutes the hunter left. My father’s leg was ghastly, but we continued our journey to freedom.
From that point on, we were more careful not to be tracked. The journey lasted two hard, long years. We only traveled at night to camouflage our skin, so we can not be discovered. We were almost to Canada with only days left when we came across a river. It was winter, therefore the river was frozen. We decided to traverse the body of water. Halfway through the cross, we heard a crack, like the sound of a gun shot. When I looked back to where my mother and baby sister stood seconds ago, there was a hole in the ice. I wanted to run to that spot and try to save them but my father dragged me away. He knew that if I came close enough to the hole I would also disappear forever in the cold water. When you lose a beloved family member let alone two, you feel like your world is torn. You start shaking like there is an earthquake. You scream blood wrenching wails until you can no longer shout. And then you cry. Cry because you were not there to save them. Cry because they meant so much to you. Cry because your dream to live in Canada as a complete family will never come true. I had no intentions of going on with the journey or to even live. The only thing I wanted was to stay forever on that frozen river. Then I thought about my father. He has lost a wife and a daughter already and he can not bear losing me. I was all he had. That thought was the only bright light in my pool of darkness and pain. That thought was the only motivation to keep going.
After that fatal day, our journey was quiet. We had no encounters with the hunters or any other problems along the way. Then, one day we saw a group of houses with all kinds of people from different backgrounds. My father and I immediately knew what the houses meant. It meant that we past the border of Canada. From that point on, we were not slaves, we were not anyone’s property, and most importantly, we were free! I could not help myself but to break into tears. The journey was over. And with that, I have freed my daughter and grandchildren from a horrible fate. I had granted them an education, common rights, and most importantly, I have granted them freedom.