A Sailor's Wife
by J.A. Strawn
In two months, my dearest husband will return. I know this because he made this promise and Jacob always keeps his word. I have faith and trust that each time he sets off on the open sea, that he will be delivered home again. I watched from afar as his crew set off from the busy harbor early Monday morning. The harpoons were carefully secured and provisions for the men carefully loaded aboard. He wore the sturdy woolen guernsey I had knitted and given to him on the eve before the voyage. It would protect my sailor from the damp. I whispered goodbye to him, as it is bad luck to call out to a sailor once he has left his home.
He promises this time will be his last. But the wind blows so cold outside and I pace across the creaky floorboards each night, hoping that the time will pass. By morning, the windows are iced over and icicles hang off the house like barnacles on a ship. Still, the midday sun melts them and I am hopeful again that for Jacob it will be 'fair winds and following seas.' Yet the nightfall brings foul weather and my heart weakens under the strain.
Before he left and the weather turned, we had a beautiful night together. The baby fell asleep quickly, a rare occasion, and we celebrated with the last of pumpkin pie. We climbed to the roof of our house and gazed at the stars. Always thoughtful, he brought my shawl and wrapped it around my arms.
"Look at the brightest one, Maria, and I will be with you. That gleaming diamond can be seen by anyone, North or South of here. It will guide me home," he said with a gleam in his own eye that I knew very well.
I look for that star each night or better yet, I look for his ship pulling into port with great carcasses divided into blubber and oil and bone. But what of the nights when the fog and gloom cover the heavens and I only see darkness? I can't stand it. I want to tear out my hair. Instead, I read or knit or pick up the baby and look at her sleeping face. Sometimes her eyes are pinched shut, as if she is pretending to sleep. Other times she shows me a crooked little grin. That makes me calm for a while.
The days are a blur. I must go about them without thinking. I tend to things, that's what I do. I keep things going but without any joy. Mother explained that marriage would be like this with highs and lows, trials and tribulations. But these I don't notice when he is with me, my dear husband. When he is safe at home, back on dry land, it is like a honeymoon again.
The two months passed and another two months more. I wait and I pace and I climb to the roof each night. Now I bring our baby and your little spyglass to catch a glimpse of your ship on the horizon. I search and search. The other families tell me to have patience. You know how these things can be. Did my farewell, even whispered so quietly, cause an accident at sea? No, I have faith in his promise. He will return to me.
I cannot remember the days at all anymore. Do I bake bread? Do I tend the garden? I am frantic and fearful. I have my baby and she is sleeping so peacefully. I should try to sleep. One more visit to the roof, one more glimpse of our star or that ship. What was its name? What is my name?
Too much time has passed. How long has it been? Our child is still a baby and I am still a young mother, pacing the floors and climbing the roof every night. It frightens the new inhabitants of the house. I see it in their faces and when they hide behind their bedclothes as I pass from room to room. Still I wait for my husband. One night he will return to me.
"A Sailor's Wife" © 2017 by J.A. Strawn