We were on our way: everything
was packed, our house was clean and locked, and the Liberté was
moving slowly out of New York Harbor with us on the deck. My mother
took Emmy's hand and told me to hold Willy's. She was already carrying
Really, Libby, she said, in a serious voice. I don't
want any of you out of my sight.
So we stood right next to her. We watched New York (all the sky scrapers)
spread out in a line and little baby waves moving and sparkling below
us.And then above us - high above us -- I saw the Statue of Liberty.
I'd never realized before
how HUGE it is. One arm was bigger than a tall building.
Look, Willy, look!
I said. The Statue of Liberty!
Liberty! I raised my free
arm up to the sky, the way she was holding hers, and held it there.
She was put there
to welcome all the people from other lands who came to America,I
I thought of my grandparents coming from Finland, and my great-great
somethings coming from England and Scotland and Norway, and of all the
other people who came to America: thousands and thousands of them, all
brave and adventurous and full of hope. And they were all welcome. I
felt very proud of them and of our country, proud to be an American.
Willy tugged at my hand and I looked down: he was saluting, too, with
his free hand. He smiled proudly at me and I squeezed his hand and smiled
By dinner, we were, I thought, out of
America, and on the Atlantic Ocean - and even if where we were didn't
count as a new country (my mother said we were in international
water,) it felt like we were in one.
The Dining Salon was very fancy. Everyone had assigned tables, and a
huge man - taller and bigger than my father: a little bit fat (but on
him it didn't look bad to be fat because he was so big) sat with us
He had a dark, proud, serious face. He sat very straight and square,
like a King with his arms on his throne. But what was really fascinating
was that he wore a huge feathered head-dress - not like an Indian's:
his was a kind of turban with big feathers of all different colors around
it. He wore wonderful, pale green robes that went down to the ground
(I bent down under the tablecloth and looked).
I was wondering if he was a King, or at least a Prince or Chieftain,
when my mother shook her head at me, just a little bit: but I knew that
she meant: It's rude to stare.
She had given us a little talk about manners before we left our cabin
for the Dining Salon, and I knew that she really wanted us to be polite.
It was hard, but I looked around the room and tried not to look back
at him too often.
All the tables were round, and covered with long, white tablecloths
that seemed very thick. I asked the waiter questions whenever I could;
the most interesting answer was:
When it gets rough, we pour water on the tablecloths to keep the
dishes from sliding off the tables.
When will that happen? I said.
He said it probably wouldn't, most crossings were calm.
Still, I thought, it might happen on ours. I hoped it would.
After dinner, we went to our cabins: Emmy and I had a cabin to ourselves,
which was very exciting.
Be sure to keep the door locked,my mother said again when
she kissed us good-night, and don't unlock it for anyone but me.
Her cabin - which Willy and Bubby were
in, too - was right next door to ours: still, it was pretty cool to
have our own.
It was cozy, with just room for a little table and chair and a mirror
(all screwed in), and another chair in a tiny alcove under the porthole.
You could stand on the chair to look out the porthole - only it was
shut with a round metal shutter, painted the same creamy white as the
walls, and locked.
Let's get in bed,I said: we had already decided to take
turns sleeping in the top bunk, and the first night, it was mine. I
climbed up into it: It had a lamp above the pillow, so you could read
in bed. I hung my little metal horse on the lamp by its bridle.
The sheets were thick and kind of scratchy: they didn't feel like our
sheets at home at all. They were tucked in VERY tightly and I had to
wriggle around for a long time before I felt comfortable.
What are you doing?Emmy said, from the bottom bunk.
I hung my head over the side of the top bunk and looked down at her
with my head upside down.
Getting settled in.
I made a face and she made one back.
What will we do tomorrow? she said.
Explore the ship.
Don't you want to go in the playroom?
The playroom had a baby sitter in a
white uniform and the kinds of toys that girlie-girls and very little
children like. It was perfect for Willy: lots of blocks.
You can - I'd rather explore.
As soon as breakfast was over, we did.
First, we ran up to the deck (our cabin and Dining Salon were below
the deck). It was narrow, and crowded with grown-ups, lying in deckchairs,
or walking slowly, or playing a really boring game kind of like hopscotch;
or just standing around, leaning their elbows on the wall that circled
the deck - this was painted a creamy white, like everything else on
the ship. They were looking out - at what? What could they see? All
I could see was sky and water. I jumped up, to see more - but there
nothing out there but sky and water.
Stewards bustled around, bringing blankets and snacks to the grown-ups
and watching us suspiciously. Once, in a place where there was a little
space, I skipped a few skips, and one shouted at me.
So, the deck was pretty boring. We decided to explore the rest of the
ship -- I ran down the first empty staircase we came to. No one stopped
me; I ran back up, then ran down my favorite way.
I grabbed the banister three steps below me tightly with one hand, then
jumped SIX steps at once. I sort of run and jump and leap all at the
same time - it's almost like flying, with a short pause in-between jumps
to grab the banister again. Before the very bottom, you let go - and
bend your knees to land on the ground with a huge thud.
I ran back to the top and did it again:
Emmy, try running and jumping down more than one step at a time!
Just grab the banister tightly and jump! I said. It's really
fun - like this, watch!
She did; it WAS really fun and we both laughed a lot.
When we got sick of that, we explored. The ship was so big that there
were lots of empty places - there just weren't any on the deck itself.
But BELOW the deck, there were stairs and ladders to climb up and down,
and lots and lots of halls: wide ones (main halls) and narrower ones
(side halls) and all of them had shiny, slippery floors, perfect for
running and sliding and chasing each other. Here is a letter about it
that I wrote to my class but never mailed: