Forgetting Tabitha: An Orphan Train Rider

Forgetting Tabitha: An Orphan Train Rider by Julie Dewey Read Free Book Online

Book: Forgetting Tabitha: An Orphan Train Rider by Julie Dewey Read Free Book Online
Authors: Julie Dewey
Tags: Fiction, Historical, Retail
chest. It gagged me but if I were to become a Christian I would have to do my best to care for Edmund, which meant wiping his snot and patting his back so he could cough up the thick phlegm plaguing his chest and causing him distress. He held onto me for dear life, making me wonder what his five years had been like up until now. I asked Agnes what was on my mind and she said, “never mind about that, all that matters is what happens now.” It would be a difficult placement not only due to his poor health but he had pressing dark features. His skin was olive toned and his hair was dark like his eyes. If he was mistaken for a Spaniard he had no chance whatsoever for adoption. His nose was big for his face and his lashes were long and dark, he was a pretty boy although he was extremely shy.
    I was going to be lucky to get adopted. I was a freckle faced ten year old, had untamed spiky reddish hair that made me look like a boy in spite of my headband and calico dress. I ate like a boy and fought like a boy if anyone tried to cheat me. I had developed a chip on my shoulder according to Agnes. Adoptive parents wanted babies and darling children or conversely they wanted strapping lads who could work a farm. I was neither and Edmund was neither and as we found at our first stop, we were not wanted.
    The first stop west was in Pennsylvania. It only took us half a day by train to get there so the children on board weren’t weary from travel although our bums were sore from the wooden bench seats. Typically, the small children rode in the carriages with Sister Agnes while the older charges road in the boxcars, becoming known as “boxcar children.” We wore our traveling outfit aboard the train and were now instructed to change into our Christian attire. I put on my dress with bow and changed Edmund’s nappy, which gagged me at once given the gigantic size of the turd he delivered. He held in his bowel movements for days, giving him stomach cramps and then when he had to go it was epic. I dressed him in the suit he was given for formal attire. I had to change him frequently as he only had one alternative outfit and if he should have an accident there were no basins to wash the clothing in properly. I put my photograph shreds snuggly against my underwear seam and smoothed my skirt as I had seen my mother do. We were told to forget where we came from, forget our old lives and old selves and even our names but I would NEVER forget my mother.
    I squeezed my eyes shut tight to prevent the tears that were welling in my heart from spilling out. The city and all of its memories, both good and bad, were behind me now, my mother and father were dead and I was alone in the world. As I held Edmund nestled to my chest, feeling the vibration from his wheeze, a tear escaped, I quickly wiped it, sucked in my breath and made the decision to look forward. I would try.
    As the train neared its destination the nineteen orphans were given further instructions on how to behave on the platform.
    “Remember, children, only speak when spoken to, your new families want respectful children, show your manners and smile!” Sister Agnes handed out lemon flavored lollipops and allowed us a few moments to suckle them. Several of the train riders were crying and others clutching their stomachs. Agnes assured us that, “we were God’s children and there was a place for each of us.” She told us to hold our chins up and think of our bright future. When lollipops were finished and faces wiped clean, Sister inspected our clothing and ushered us from the train to the platform, touching each child in some way, a gentle hand on the shoulder or a pat on the back, her way of providing assurance and confidence to us.
    “Stay together now children, line up in order of height like we practiced. Taller children stand in the back, smaller ones in the front.” Sister Agnes spoke as we took our places on the stage in Philadelphia’s town center. The sugar surge from the

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