It is the darkest of dark nights and cold. In between wind gusts, there is deep silence. Our eyes are adjusted to the grey shadows and the different textures and tones of the charcoal landscape. We can see light in the distance. It’s not the white light of stars or the opalescence of the moon. It is a warm, yellow light diffused like a beacon reaching out into the sea. We move toward the brightness creeping across frozen fields that crunch under our feet. We are cloaked in black woolen coats and long black scarves wrapped around our heads leaving only our eyes exposed. There is no danger of being seen.
Now we are close enough to see the house with its large, bay windows awash with gentle lamp light. Occasionally, figures come into view gliding across the lit expanse like dancers. We can tell they are warm and happy and oblivious to the cold outside. We would like to join them. It would be so nice to exchange our heavy outerwear for the hot-water heated air inside. Just as a tall, thin beautifully dressed woman approaches the window and looks out, a blast of wind rises from the field and pushes my scarf away from my head leaving my face in full view. I stand still trying to escape detection but, for a brief moment, I am sure our eyes meet.
As soon as she moves away from the window, we veer off to the black ribbon of road that we follow through the clearing of trees and bushes. We are on our way to town. The destination is what drives us. We have heard of this place where there is all manner of opportunity. We want to be part of the excitement. We want our share of success and so we leave the land and its ancient sustenance. Someone else can see to that.
We have some money and we have our trades. I am a seamstress and Edward, my husband, is a baker. He makes rich desserts and his specialties all contain apple–an ingredient always plentiful in the land of orchards where we grew up. We arrive in the early morning. As dawn breaks, we stop in a diner for breakfast and there we ask where we can find a room to rent. After walking downtown, past tall buildings that block the sun, we arrive in an area filled with five-story tenements and it is there amidst all the hand drawn signs of apartments and rooms to let that we find a large room on an upper floor of a corner building. The room is light and airy and furnished with a bed, a dresser, a table with two chairs and a hot plate. We are home.
We set out looking for work the next day. Edward has luck right away and is hired to clean the ovens and assist the baker in a well-known mid-town store. He is elated. We celebrate by eating dinner at the café around the corner. When he leaves for work the next day, I set out for the garment district and begin where I left off the day before. It is not the best time to look for work in this industry. Times are tough and business is slow. Companies aren’t hiring. Many have recently let employees go.
Over and over, I walk up a few flights of stairs and ask to see the owner. I tell them I have made clothes for the wives of state senators and women who travel in the elite circles of the capitol. It doesn’t matter. “There isn’t any work right now. Come back in a few months,” they say.
I am so discouraged. We cannot stay if I don’t find work. Daylight fades into early darkness that is made even darker by a rapidly approaching storm. I tell myself to try one more place. I walk up the stairs and open the door to bright lights and the sound of humming machines. The large open room is hot and I open my coat while I wait for the head seamstress who stands slowly and walks towards me. I recognize her—the woman looking out the window. I am frightened, thinking she will recognize me and scold me. Our eyes meet; I think I see recognition in hers. She smiles and asks if I made the dress I’m wearing. I say yes. “You can start tomorrow.” she says.