Liberty

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Of course I can see the sea.  I can see the sea from my window.  Sometimes it is lost in a sky but there is still a gap in the hills where I know it is.  I wake to gulls.  I can see the sea.

My six-year old gets weepy before bed.  His brother is asleep beside him.  He talks through chokes and gulps.  His deepest wails are silent, that is how he cries when it is dark. Some nights those silent cries wake me up.

We have little dark, huddled conversations about the differences and the not going home.  He is searching around – wondering what he should be worried about.  He knows only that he is disturbed like a room after a burglary when nothing has been taken.

In the daytime it is like this:

“I want to go to America.”
“We might one day.”
“I want to see that big lady.  That statue.”
“The Statue of Liberty.”
“The Big One.  Really Big.”
“The Statue of Liberty.”
“What’s Liberty?”
“Liberty is like freedom.”
“What is it for?”
“I don’t know what it’s for… she was the first thing that lots of people who left here, Europe, after the wars – she was the first thing they saw when they got to America.  And lots of them were sad because maybe their parents or their family had been killed in the war.  They were going to America hoping they could be happy and not be poor any more.  Many of them were very poor in their countries.  And the Statue of Liberty showed them that they were welcome in America and that they might be happy there.”

He is skipping, happy with that explanation – now he is ready for a day at his new school.  We walk into his playground and he  stumbles up the steps to his classroom because some classmate is hugging the new boy as he tries to climb the steps and they are both being pretty stupid as I walk away but he manages a giggling thumbs-up.

When I think of Ellis Island I see patient queues of people, forlorn and stoic as children.  There’s something – what is it? – about the prevalence of suitcases and the tik-a-tik-tik of the arrivals board.

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