Judith Robinson, grandmother, mother, and wife, walked through the front room of her house, her parlour, her dark eyes taking in everything. She wrung the corner of her linen apron, a nervous habit she'd had for years, as she walked around the room and just looked. It was a bright, neat room, with light colored walls, papered and wainscotted even though her husband had teased her about the effort and expense. There was plenty of sun coming through real glass windows decorated with curtains that she and her daughters had sewn one winter. As she slowly circled the room, she noted each object: the shelf with their precious books, the spinning wheel she had used during the war years to help, the hearth rug, the table with its white cloth, the settee, the chairs - looking around at what she and her husband had managed to accumulate in twenty years of marriage.
“It’s not like we’re a rich family,” she thought, “but in twenty years, you just manage to get a bit together.”
Every bit of everything they owned weighed and took up space. If they were going to move on, it was important to decide what they truly needed. What could they leave behind?
Decisions, decisions. She wiped a speck of dust off the cherry wood writing table with the edge of her apron, a wedding gift from her uncle that she suspected would get left behind. Sold, most likely. Maybe it was just that the reality of this plan cooked up by her husband and sons was just starting to sink in.
Her husband Samuel had been talking about moving west ever since the end of the war. He had served some time in the western areas where the British had been stirring up the Indians and came back with tales about how lovely the land was. And, truth be known, the times since the war was over had not been particularly good here for him in Pennsylvania. The same was true with so many that she knew. Some had lost their lands, others slipped off in the night, headed south to the Carolinas. Her brother Andrew had been the first of her kin to bolt, and used his bounty land allotment to move to Kentucky. After that, she suspected that it was only a matter of time before it was their turn. And then Andrew showed up, talkin’ about his home and the land, and the opportunity and she knew it was a done deal.
A man walked into the doorway of the room, watching her. He was tall as she was slight, around six foot to her five, and filled the door opening with the width of his shoulders. His red hair now touched with gray was pulled neatly back into a queue, although some stray hair escaped to straggle across his forehead.. He wore his mudstained gaiters and a smock, proof of his farmer lifestyle, and hay was caught on one shoe.
She turned, saw him and smiled ruefully.
“You look like a woman who’s saying goodbye to your best friend, Judith Robinson.”
“Ah, away with you, Samuel. I am thinkin’ about what we can squeeze into our wagon.”
He walked into the room, wrapped one strong arm around her and held her close.
“We will bring what we need. What we can’t make easily, or what would cost more than we want to spend to buy again. What we can’t stand to part with. But remember, we only have one wagon, and it’s going to be hard getting it over the mountains, much less down the Ohio.”
“ I know,” she said, just a little sadly
They stood there in silence. So many memories had happened here, in this room, in this house. All of them, good and bad, seemed to be pressing down on her right this moment. And yet, there was the solidness of Samuel, the feel of his linen smock pressing against her cheek, the smells of barn, sweat, workshop and love all mingled together. Here was her reality, her real home.
“You told me to go ahead, Love,” he said, looking at her deep in the eyes. “I’d never do this if you didn’t agree to it.”
“I know, Samuel. It’s just now that it’s here, I feel a sorrow I didn’t expect,” she said, breaking his gaze, but resting her head against his chest. “I feel so silly to feel so sad.”
“Tell me love if it’s too hard. I haven’t sold the farm yet, and we don’t have to go.”
She looked up at him. Two of her sons and the husband of her oldest daughter would be travelling with them, too. To stay behind might mean never to see them again in far away Kentucky. There was that part of her that wanted to scream “I don’t want to go!” but seeing him, and how much his dreams and those of their children were riding on her choice, she knew she would go with love over want. She reached up on tiptoe, kissed his chin. “We’re going, Sweetheart. Now you have to help me decide what we want to sell before we leave.”