Make the Choice
Haley, Age 13, Harrisburg, PA
When I hear the sound of gunfire and canons exploding, it reminds of when my parents used to fight on and on about war. I swear that’s all they would argue about. Union this and Confederate that. I started really getting sick of it. Our family lived in the outskirts of Philadelphia. My family’s way of making money was by farming. We didn’t have a lot of land; however, we made enough money.
My family was really concerned about war. You see, my older brother, John, went off to war. My momma stood for Union rights; however, my daddy was one of those guys in the north who still liked slaves. I started to get scared sometimes because any day it seemed he was going to leave us and go down south. Then, one day it happened. August 23, 1862. Here’s how it went.
Remember how I said how my parents always fought? Well, that night was any typical one. They were fighting and, of course, it was about the war. I fell asleep to the screaming and yelling, not thinking anything about it. I woke up the next morning to the weirdest noise; I hadn’t heard the noise in years. It was the sound of joyful music being sung in the kitchen. Now for my being thirteen years old, I’d only heard this once or twice. It was definitely before the war started! My mom had a huge breakfast laid out, but the table was only set up for two. Even though things were very peaceful, I still felt something was wrong.
“Where’s dad, momma?” I asked.
An awkward silence came before us as I sat, and waited for an answer.
“Momma, did you hear me?” I asked again.
“Yes, Sam, I heard you!” Momma replied. “He left for a little bit.”
I could tell she was lying.
“He had to go someplace, and get up really early. I have no idea when he’s going to be back.”
The subject was then changed to what our schedule would be like. I’d do the farming and feed the animals, while Momma would do the housework and occasionally come help me in the field. Today, though, felt very unusual. There was an eerie quietness when working in the field. I was used to hearing my dad cracking jokes or talking about the war. I was also used to hearing pots and pans banging. Today I heard none of that. Momma usually took out her anger at Dad by banging on those pots and pans. Today she was smiling away. Nothing was banging in the kitchen and it was kind of peaceful. The whole day was like this. Lunch came around, and I asked the question again.
“Momma, how long will Dad be gone?”
“Honey, honestly, I don’t know,” she said as though she was annoyed.
“Oh okay,” I replied.
“It’s just the war is at its worst right now. I guess our country needs him.”
As we sat and ate lunch that eerie silence came back. Then Momma started to talk how brave my brother was. I admired my brother and wanted to follow right in his footsteps. When he was my age, he was really strong and was helpful to anyone who needed help. Man, I wish I could have been like him, I thought as I finished my lunch and went back to the field.
By the end of the day that day, I was tired. I had to do dad’s work and mine, and it had to be done by sundown. When I went in from the field, Momma already had dinner ready and was waiting for me to eat.
"Are you ready to eat?” Momma asked.
“Yeah, what are we having?”
“Corn, potatoes, and some leftover soup from last night,” she replied.
We sat down and ate dinner like any other night. Of course, except for one thing………no Dad.
“Momma, where’s Dad? Is he coming home?” I asked for probably the fifth time that day.
“Well, honey, I guess I should tell you. I shouldn’t of kept it a secret for as long as I had. You know that fight your father and I had last night?” she asked.
“Yes, I didn’t know what it was about.” I replied very nervously, when secretly I knew that it was about how Dad wanted to take the family and move down south, but Momma refused.
“Well, it was a big one. Your daddy was in one of his stubborn moods and threatened me that if we didn’t move with him to the south, he was goin' to leave by himself. Knowing him, I didn’t think he would actually leave. When I said no, he went to his clothes drawer, packed up all of his belongings, and walked out the door in the dead of night. Honestly, it happened very fast, it’s hard to remember,” she said.
I sat there. Momma said I looked very weird. Just sitting lost in thought. I may have looked lost on the inside; however, everything was racing around in my mind. How could he do this? Just leave us, and John is still away at war! These thoughts clouded in my mind, and momma became nervous because I hadn’t spoken or moved in ten minutes. She shook me. I jumped as if I was asleep being woken up.
“Are you okay honey?” she asked nervously.
“Yeah, I-I-I-I guess,” I said, “Who’s going to run the farm, who’s gonna handle the money? Who’s gonna go to town to sell our products, Momma? Without Dad, we’re poor!”
This page was last updated on January 28, 2010 by the KIWW Webmaster.