Tuesday, July 19, 2016

And then we were no more.

Herculano_Hiding.P6193128.jpg by Nancy Lundebjerg on 500px.com

We are waiting for the boats to arrive that will take us away from Herculaneum, my father, my mother, sister, and me.  Here they had said, we will be safe here at the waterfront sheltered by the strong stalls that held goods from other lands.  We’ll be safe there my mother whispered to us children as she dressed us while father bundled up our gold and silver.  Take only what you can carry they said with that serious, stern expression that usually preceded a more serious than normal punishment for some childhood transgression.

I could see the smoke rising up from Vesuvius and heard the whispering of our neighbors and my parents as they talked about whether to stay or to run.  And if we run, I heard my mother say to my father, where will we run to?  To the sea he had responded, to the sea.  We’ll be safe there he said – his whisper joining a 1,000 other whispers as that single word – “safe” – bounced off of walls and careened around corners.

And so here we sit, mother, father, sister and I listening to the vicious slap of the sea against the docks and wondering when the boats would come.  The room was full of the sounds of mothers comforting the smaller children and fathers talking amongst themselves.  They all peered anxiously out to sea as we waited.  Some of the older boys played a half-hearted game of tag along the docks.  You could see the pent up energy and the longing to run fast and far in their every step.  Sister and I just sat and listened as my mother told us about her Roman childhood and how she’d ended up with our father in this idyllic seaside town that was the only home we had ever known.

We tried to ignore the stinging in our eyes and the heavy heat of the air.  Tell it to us again we cried as Mother gathered us in closer.  We never noticed the tears in her eyes nor felt father leaning over us as if he could protect us from what was to come.  The last thing I remember was my mother’s soft voice talking about meeting my father for the first time when she was 10 and he was 12.  Just the age you are she whispered into my ear as the fury of Vesuvius engulfed us.  

And then we were no more.