As the sweep of iced Canadian air pushed through the hard woods of New Brunswick, like a reaper strumming dead bones, a French immigrant family traveled by open carriage to the border of Canada, and crossed by foot onto American soil into Maine.
They managed by rail, and truck, and bus, and luck to find Boston.
The Father had a brother there already. The brother spoke of steady work, lodgings with heat, and stores where all you had to do was walk in and choose food, with fruit that came from wondrous places- like pineapple and banana. Warm places. Islands. You could taste them.
The Parents of this family had little formal education. It wasn’t needed to continue the trade on a fishing boat. The family tradition of hand-to-mouth. Eat what you catch. Sometimes you don’t– eat at all.
The Father did odd jobs for Boston- like occasionally running bootleg liqueur along the Bay of Fundy or repurposing coat closets with indoor plumbing for rich people.
The Mother was in service as an upstairs French maid for a prominent Brahmin family on Beacon Hill, until the Depression hit, and then even all the money in the world couldn’t save you. Or their jobs.
By 1934, with a new baby just born, the parents delivered their eldest child to live with nuns. They couldn’t feed her and her two sisters combined.
The Mother was allowed to visit for one hour, once a month. Sometimes the child didn’t attend the visits. The Mother was told the child was being punished for bad behavior, that God wiling, hopefully next month she’d be more obedient.
When the Mother inquired as to the offenses, she was told that it was of no concern to her as long as the child was under the roof of the Lord and the Mother continued to require their services.
The Mother visited every month- for over a year.
By then, the Father had decided to move to the water, to leave the city, where he could fish for their supper, and on their way, they gathered their eldest daughter from the Nuns, and vowed to never set foot in a Catholic Church again.
The daughter was afraid of closets now. They didn’t ask why, but the Father removed every closet door from every house that they ever lived together-in again.
And then, one day, twenty year’s of days into the future, with the warm caress of a tropical breeze blowing through the fronds of soft palms, like a mistress whispering in the ear of a lover, a nun was found dead in a closet.
The family had finally made it to Florida…