Jenice Gharib: July 1942

Fall '06 TOC

My dearest Christopher,
      It is with great trepidation that I write this second letter to you with plan of concealing it within the first. The things I am soon to place into writing cause my heart to flutter in this old breast of mine. You must promise me, my son, that after reading the thoughts I commit by my own hand to this sheaf of paper that you will tear this parchment into pieces each no larger than a coin and throw my words overboard when the port of Palos no longer remains in sight of you and your crew but has traversed into memory. This much you owe to the mother that gave you birth.
      Christopher, of all my children you have been the closest to me and so I have long trusted you with knowledge beyond your years. Remember our day together when you were just thirteen years of age, before you set sail for the first time? We sat together, you and I, in the back of the garden of our house in Genoa, away from the prying eyes of the rest of the household and the neighbors, and I told you that according to our laws you were now a man. And I also told you that our kind was not often welcome, that our own family many years ago came to this place from Spain where they were thought to be persons unfit to live among. That day I said to you, "Tell no one of what I speak until you have decided which of your children you can trust and then tell only him or her. In this way the secret of our family will be safe."
      When my father named me he bade me called Susanna. So many years ago it was still near safe to bear a name long held in our faith. When you were born such safety was no longer assured and I named you Christ-bearer. You, in turn, named your children outside our faith. And now I must implore you that though you search for a home for our people, a place for all of us to live and pray in peace, together, as one, your true success may take more days than may be apparent at first. You must go on naming things as you have, your ships, the lands which you find, after the Christian God and His family and His saints. When the time comes for our people to inhabit the homeland you claim for us these names will be cast aside and new ones given that are of our people and our past. Patience, patience, my son.
      Do not fail to lavish your praise upon King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Tell all that bend their ear to listen it is the royal jewels that puts the wind in your sails. Do not let be heard from your lips the names of Louis de Santangel and Gabriel Sanchez, known conversos both, who believe in our dream and finance your voyage. In this way you give no grounds for any of high birth or low to speculate on your true path. And do not consort with the many members of your crew known to be as we are. Stay away from those most recent conversos for a man in fear is known to do anything to save his own skin–even share the secrets he has been paid in gold to keep. I could not bear to have your body, at times I feel it so recently issued from mine own, thrown upon the rack and twisted into an unholy shape.
      And yet I cannot help but feel a desire within my breast to taunt the law of expulsion so recently made by the Spanish king and so soon to come to pass: that all Jews shall leave Spain by the second day of this coming month of August, this Ninth of Av, when behind high walls and closed gates we fast and mourn the loss of our temples in Jerusalem. Christopher, this you must do for me and for your family cast out from Spain once before. You must tell no one, but delay your sailing until the infamous date has passed, claim a sick crew member or a lost barrel of grain, but have you and your ship sit that one holy day in a Spanish port so that I may go to my deathbed knowing that one true man of our faith remained.
      Now I close what I so long ago began. The sun casts its red glow through the east window. Your father, Domenico, will soon arise to go to supervise the looms. To your brother, who travels this day to bid you farewell, I will entrust this letter with the instruction to convey these words of mine into your very hands.
When you return with your good news we shall partake of a feast brimming with all your favorites: torta pasqualina, cima genovese, cappon magron. And, of course, we shall toast your success with some of your father's best Vernaccia.
Go in peace, Christopher. Go in peace. With God's help.
                                                                        Your mother, Susanna

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