May 1851

Annie climbed aboard the ship, clinging tightly to her father’s hand, and equally as tight to the small satchel filled with just one spare dress and a little sketchbook. When her father had come home with tickets just two nights before, he had informed Annie that she could only bring what was most important. While her father had little use for her “scribbles,” her Mama had loved to look over Annie’s drawings with her, before Mama had fallen ill. Besides, with so little to go around in their humble home, she had few items of value to choose from, so her decision was an easy one. Stumbling a little on the uneven boards, she looked around, taking in her temporary home. This was to be the last voyage for The Sea Queen. Annie knew that was the only way her father had been able to buy them tickets at the very last minute. As she noticed the rats peeping out from every nook or cranny, her heart sank. She didn’t want to leave Ireland. Annie was scared, plain and simple. But what choice did they have? The famine had already claimed thousands, and America was the promised land, it just had to be. She had to be strong, she could do this…

 

August 1863

The Sea Queen had seen her last voyage over ten years ago. She sat in a forgotten harbor near Ellis Island, calmly and silently awaiting her fate. After hundreds of trips to and from the New World, she felt tired. Her boards were leaking and creaky, with new little holes springing up every day. She sat and watched as sailors came and went down the harbor road, all of them passing her by without even a glance. As she bumped up against the dock for the thousandth time, the old ship saw a group of three men dressed in suits, clearly not sailors, headed straight for her. The men boarded gingerly, picking their steps very carefully, avoiding the worst of the holes on deck. They seemed to the Queen to be inspecting every board. One man, who was quite a bit older than the other two, finally spoke. “Well, when you have no money, you can’t be picky, right?” The other two men looked a little worried, with their foreheads bunched up, as worry tends to do. Not looking as though they wanted to argue with the man, they tentatively agreed that they would do their best. The old man smiled just a little, he knew they could do this…

 

June 1867

Four years of blood, sweat and tears had been poured into his project. This was the day that John, a failed businessman who had rescued, quite literally, a sinking ship with his two oldest sons, would open his shop. Perhaps he had felt a bond with the old ship. After all, he had done nothing but his job, just like the Sea Queen. Yet, when money had become increasingly tight and he was laid off from the bank where he worked, he was left with no notion of what direction he might head. Here was a second chance for both of them. Using the wood from The Sea Queen, John and his sons had finally completed their shop, and he had hung the sign which read, quite appropriately, “New World Notions.” Shelves were filled with any and all products immigrants might need, from soap and premade clothing to brooms and food stuffs. As they had struggled through the past two years, John knew all the while that his family was counting on him. They needed this shop to be successful. Somehow, through odd jobs and the promise of this shop, they were able to stick together. And together, he knew they can do this too…

 

June 1930

63 years ago to the day, Conor’s father had opened New World Notions. As immigrants continued to flock to America, Conor’s family business was a thriving one. As the youngest son, he wasn’t even born when the shop first opened. He had grown up working first as a sales clerk, and had worked his way up to take over the shop as his father slowly turned it over to him, a piece at a time, as his health had failed him. Now however, as the Great Depression was taking a firm hold on the States, and the influx of immigrants had slowed to a trickle, Conor knew he would have to get creative. Fewer and fewer items were considered necessities. There was one thing, however, without which no one could survive for long. That one thing, was food. With that in mind, Conor had a hammer in hand. He stood in front of the shop, staring at the wood as if it were alive, and ran through the memories within those four walls. Wasted time, though, was no longer a luxury available to him, and so he began to pull the boards off, one by one. Conor had never built a wheeled cart, but he just knew he could do it. After all, what choice did he have…

 

August 1940

Timothy was visiting New York for the first time since he had landed there with his parents, 25 years earlier. At the time, they kept right on moving to Ohio, and with the Depression, there really hadn’t been money to travel in the last few years. As he looked all around, Tim could not believe the changes. Some were good, some were bad, but he was looking for something specific. Something he could take back with him to Ohio. As he looked around, taking in the sights, an older man shuffled by him. The man was pushing a cart full of hot dogs, not saying a word, unlike the other hawkers who were yelling out catchphrases to gain interest in their wares. He looked tired, and yet had a smile for every person stopping him to grab a quick lunch. It seemed as though he didn’t need gimmicks, everyone already knew him. Suddenly, an idea hit Tim. He walked up to the old man, introduced himself, and explained his interests. Shortly thereafter, with a lot less convincing than he had expected, Tim found himself the new owner of a rolling cart. Just like that, the old man walked away with enough money to last him the rest of his life. Tim knew it was a risky shot, but he needed something fresh. Would Tim’s boss go for this new idea? He just knew it would work…

 

October 1962

After 22 years, the final game was being played at a minor-league stadium in small town Ohio. Lucy had grown up going to games with her family. As she bought the final hot dog from her favorite food cart, she couldn’t help the sadness she felt. There had to be a way to hang on to her precious memories. As she began to walk away, she ran right into her Uncle Tim, who was the operations manager for the stadium. Lucy asked him what would happen to all the pieces of the stadium, from the seats to the lockers to the simple things, such as the hot dog cart. Uncle Tim thought for a moment, then asked her if she might like to have the hot dog cart. He explained that he had found it in New York, and would hate to see it go to scrap. Excitedly, Lucy accepted, as her sentimentality just would not let her decline the offer. She had no need for a food cart, but she just knew she could find a way to use it…

 

May 2014

Laughter erupted from the ten people gathered around a weathered farmhouse style table. The table was made from weathered wood, salvaged from an old food cart. Everyone around the table had heard the story a million times. Grandma Lucy’s house was the gathering place for every holiday, and this Christmas was no different. Little Annie, named after Lucy’s grandma, had everyone laughing at her matter of fact statements. The table had become a family piece, and had held many games, meals, coloring pages and memories over the years. To Lucy, the table meant more than just some repurposed wood. When she looked at it, she saw her family’s indomitable spirit. Years ago, her Grandma Annie, had traveled over on a ship she fondly referred to as, “Queenie.” She would often remark that there was nothing that couldn’t be accomplished with a little bit of grit, and the decision to never quit. That Christmas, as Lucy sat looking around at her family, she was filled with gratitude that her Grandma Annie hadn’t given up. Through unbeatable odds, and one little girl’s perseverance, a new life had been forged for generations to come. Her grandma’s stories were what taught Lucy that anything was truly possible in this “promised land,” as she called it. As Lucy sat reminiscing, little Annie caught her attention. Looking up at a sketch hanging on the wall, drawn on a small weathered piece of paper, little Annie asked, “Grandma, what happened to the ship in that picture?” Lucy looked a bit wistfully at the picture and replied, “I don’t know dear. But it is my sincerest hope that someone, somewhere along the way, used it to help build their own little path in the promised land.”