Last week I told you how the idea for Rubies originated and how my mother told me the story of my grandmother’s journey from Norway to America in 1913. In this week’s video, I mention the expected duties of housekeepers in those days and what Kaja endured on her first job in America.
Below is a book excerpt showing the saddest day for Kaja when she left her children behind in Norway, fulling intending to return for them.
From Norway to America: Rubies – Escaping the Curse
“Why must you go away, Momma?” Mary’s lips quivered, her eyes brimming with tears.
Kaja knelt down and pulled the little girl close. Stroking the child’s hair, she whispered, “Momma loves you and Janna more than life itself, but we no longer have money to buy food and soon they will take away our home.”
Tears flowed down Mary’s cheeks. “But we can all live with Grandmama.”
Kaja choked back a sob and took a deep breath. Living with Berglet was intolerable, but how could she explain this to a child. Perhaps if Kaja had had a sibling, things would have been different. She was thankful Mary and Janna had each other.
Even at only six years of age, Mary was the mirror image of her mother. Her large brown eyes spoke her every thought, her lustrous brown hair adorned an olive skin as soft as rose petals. Mary’s physical appearance alone was not all that reminded Kaja of herself, but her strong will and lust for life.
Four year old Janna was the image of Gunnar. Her blond curls nestled along her round face when she smiled. The fair skinned beauty was too young to know what was happening.
“You and Janna will live with Grandmama for just a little while, and then you will come to America and live with me.” Kaja spoke softly.
“Why can’t we go with you now, Momma? I don’t want to stay here without you or Papa.”
Kaja wiped Mary’s tears with her fingertips. “Papa has gone far away and I must prepare a place for us to live and then I will send for you, I promise.” She placed a kiss on each side of the child’s face and pulled her close.
Sobbing, Mary cried in her mother’s arms. “Please, Momma, don’t go. I will hate you forever.”
“Hush, Mary. You must not speak so. You must be brave for little Janna. I need you to take care of her for me.”
Mary sniffed back her tears and rubbed her puffy eyes with her tiny fists.
Berglet had stood by quietly but now spoke. “And this pain is what you want for your children?”
Kaja stood up and wiped a tear from her cheek. “It is not pain I wish for them but a good life, Momma. Gunnar has been gone three years and there is no work here for me. America is the only way.”
Berglet crossed her arms. “You will leave your children and go to live with a stranger? What will happen if he does not keep his word?”
“Then I will find a way to return to Norway. I have to make my own way for my children. Please, Momma, you can come with the children to America.”
Berglet clicked her tongue. “I am happy in my own land.” Sighing, she pursed her lips. “I do not agree with your decision, but I will keep the children.”
Three days out of port, the ship was besieged by a terrible storm. Huge waves crashed into its sides while hungry sharks circled the waters. Only days before, Kaja had stood on the deck of the Lusitania waving good-bye to her children. Now, nauseated and frightened, she crouched in a corner, hugging her knees and praying for God’s forgiveness and mercy. All she could think about was her promise to her papa on his deathbed. His words tore at her soul. “You will not marry against my wishes. The musician is not a good man”.
But she had married against Papa’s wishes. Hadn’t she paid yet for the sin of long ago? Why was her love for Gunnar so wrong?
Tears ran down her face. It had been eight long years yet the memory of Berglet’s anger was still fresh in her mind.
“I make the best home I can for you since your papa died,” Berglet said, shaking her finger. Just because you are eighteen you know what a man wants? Your papa did not approve of this cheap entertainer!”
Kaja brushed aside her tears and sighed. Momma had been right. Finding Gunnar in bed with another woman was a sin she would never forget or forgive. While the band’s young singer sat in the bed, clutching the sheets over her naked breasts, Gunnar had only shrugged his shoulders in silent resignation. He didn’t even try to stop Kaja from leaving and had never returned home again.
Things would be different in America. She would find a new life and she would never think about Gunnar again.
Unfortunately for Kaja things did not get better in America. Things went from bad to worse when Kaja discovered all the things that went along with her housekeeping duties. Tune in next week for another excerpt on Kaja’s new life in America.
Find out more about Rubies – Escaping the Curse with the direct lin here: Rubies – Book One
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