“We’re so proud of you.” – A historical fiction story.

“Papa, papa, papa!” 

“What is it Hannah?” papa shouts as he nearly trips over a dining room chair while running into the house from our backyard. 

I can’t speak. Running towards him I jump into his arms and cry into his shoulder.

He pats the back of my head. “What’s wrong sweetheart?”

Dropping back to the floor, I hand him the letter.

“Laura!” papa shouts walking away from me. “Laura! She did it! She got in to Oberlin.”

Mama comes running down the stairs. There are already tears in her eyes too. 

They both walk towards me with outstretched arms. “We’re so proud of you,” they say almost in unison. 

Most women in my town don’t work. They marry, have children, care for a home. A few venture out in to the city. But most were born in and live and die in this town. In all the years only one has gone to college and that was nearly ten years ago, in 1875. 

Mama was almost another. She wanted to go to college in her youth, but wasn’t able to afford the tuition. So she stayed in town and became a teacher. Papa did go to college. He grew up in a wealthy family in Boston, graduated from Harvard and then Harvard Medical School. Now he’s the doctor of our town.

How papa and mama met is a cute story. Papa was visiting a friend in town and on a fine Saturday afternoon they went for a waslk by the lake. Mama was there with some of her friends. 

Well mama is clumsy sometimes and she stepped awkwardly as she walked along the lake. She almost fell into the water. Papa saw her fall and ran over to help. 

The fall didn’t hurt her too bad, but while daddy helped her, they talked. He was smitten and came to visit her the next day to see how she was. 

That day he proposed to her. She said no. They were different, from different classes of society, different walks of life. Papa was a city guy, she loved the small country life. But papa came every weekend for the next few months. And she said yes on a walk along the same lake.

Both families objected to the marriage, but his family disowned him. Him marrying down crushed his parents. Why I don’t understand, but they felt that was more important than family. So he moved to mama’s small town and started a new practice. “Marrying your mama has been the best decision I ever made,” he’s always told me.

Papa and mama started teaching me from as long as I can remember. They both love literature and on most nights we huddle around the fireplace and read books together.  As I grew older, papa started teaching me about medicine. Sometimes at night if I’m done with my homework, I go with him to visit patients in their homes. He never rejects anyone, even those who can only pay with a warm smile and a thank you. After each patient visit we walk home and talk. And then at home, papa always sits down with me to read his medical books to better understand his patients needs.

By fifteen I could pass for a doctor and sometimes in the store or at the park people ask me for medical advice. I give it, sheepishly telling them they have to speak to papa. 

It was around then that I said to him, “I want to be a doctor like you.”

Papa got up and walked to his bedroom. He came back with a box and handed it to me. 

I tore at the box. There was a brand new stethoscope.

“You’re going to be a great doctor,” he said, tears streaming down his soft cheeks. “But promise me you won’t quit on your dream. No matter what people say or how many rejections you get.”

“Promise.”

And now sitting together as a family looking at my acceptance letter to Oberlin, the reality of leaving home for the unknown is sinking in. Likely I will be the only woman in my class. But I look at papa and mama and can see the beaming pride in their eyes, the girth of their will for me to chase my dreams in their hearts. They support me with money and more importantly with their love. 

“You’re going to do great, Hannah. We’re so proud of you.”

Note: this is a historical fiction story. The characters and their interactions are fiction. 

Peter Jackson – A Snapshot Biography

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson was one of the best boxers of his time, winning the Australian heavyweight title in 1886. 

Though a fighter by profession, he was calm, collected, his demeanor dignified. In the ring he was methodical. Outside of it he stood proud of his race and fought back against discrimination. With force if he had to, but he never used his strength and brawn to bully. 

From his success in Australia he moved to the U.S. looking for fighting challenges. But racism hindered his opportunities.

As his boxing life waned, Peter became an actor, touring with the stage production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the role of Uncle Tom. When speaking about considering the part, he said, “if Uncle Tom is a success, I intend to play it, but it does not do to be too confident.” And he approached the role with a diligent perspective that “acting is like everything else, it needs practice.”

Deteriorating health took him from the ring and the stage and at the young age of 40 he passed away from tuberculosis.  

His friends chose to emblazon his tomb with the phrase: “This was a man.”

Sources: Up against the Ropes: Peter Jackson As “Uncle Tom” in America by Susan F. Clark, The morning call. January 30, 1893, Page 3 (https://bit.ly/2XRXwZN), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Jackson_(boxer), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Peter_Jackson_boxer_1889.jpg

Quote

Harriet Tubman: “I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom.”

Harriet Tubman

“I had crossed the line of which I had so long been dreaming. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom, I was a stranger in a strange land, and my home after all was down in the old cabin quarter, with the old folks, and my brothers and sisters. But to this solemn resolution I came; I was free, and they should be free also; I would make a home for them in the North, and the Lord helping me, I would bring them all there.”

– Harriet Tubman