I never thought myself a man of adventure. Quite the opposite actually. Mathematics was my calling and being from a family of means, I studied at Harvard, then became a mathematician. I married Luise, my sweetheart from childhood and we moved into a quaint brownstone on Newbury St. in Boston. Life was pleasant, simple, with friends and family nearby. There were daily struggles, a due course of worries that come with life. But they were mostly common toils of our class.
We were both twenty four when Luise became pregnant. That was a good day when we found out. We had talked of becoming parents for so many years.
But we never got the chance. Within a few days of birth both Luise and our baby had died.
When Luise passed, life became stale, a bland surrender to existence on good days, regrets and questions on bad ones. Friends did their best, coming over with food and ample smiles, warm hugs and gentle embraces, they brought beer and wine and soft baked cookies. But little worked. An occasional smile or an unfettered laugh, a moment of still ease brought hope of change.
I quit work. Spent my days walking along the banks of the Charles River wondering when the haze would pass. Spring’s charm was upon us, but even the new colors of life did little to assuage the pain. Father said to me one day, “feelings can be ephemeral if you give them the chance to be.” I didn’t believe him, every part of me felt this enduring gloom.
One warm sunny morning, I read in the paper about people heading west. There was a gold rush in California. Reading about these men, some women, reaching for their dreams, my mind began to wonder, dream even, picturing what a new life in a new town in a new state may look like. Thoughts of this new life grew as days passed. My walks moved with a faster pace. I slept more at night. The mornings came with less dread.
One morning I purchased a ticket for the passage west. That night I walked to my parents home and over dinner told them of my plans. I was pale, about ten pounds lighter, my eyes circled dark, gaze timid and empty. My poor mother, withered too from her own stress of worry about my life, with new prominent wrinkles, begged me not to go. “This is not you, the rugged life is not your nature, and especially in this state,” she said. She was right of course. Adventure was a late evening walk through the commons, maybe a yearly trip to Paris on a fine steamer, a stay in a fine hotel. Traveling to California, California itself, was not a world I was built for.
Father too begged me to stay. Less so than mother. I think he understood. And his request to stay seemed more to appease mother than to keep me put. After dinner, he took me up to his office. Father and I had never been close. We were too different. I took after my mother, who preferred the comforts of a quiet room and a book. Father had a powerful demeanor, a presence. He was a tall, solid man who towered over most, talked with a big voice, had a large vocabulary and a quick wit.
“I’m proud of you, son. Sometimes a man must do what he feels is necessary regardless of what others think of the decision. You’re there now, don’t doubt, stay your course,” he said. He hugged me and then wrapped his large hands around my thin arms and said, “Write us as often as you can.” There were tears in his eyes.
Note: this is a work of historical fiction. The story, characters, and incidents are fictitious.