Through The Lens: Bundleman Pt. 2
As morning light arrived, the cargo ship’s engines began to slow upon entering New York Harbor. The small man was now surrounded by those he’d left sleeping just a few hours before. For this sight too was one they had also dreamed of. The sight of a new country full of promises. No one spoke as they neared the grand lady who welcomed new arrivals, Lady Liberty. The mass of people with their eyes looking toward the statue stood still as if in reverence before one of America’s greatest symbols of freedom.
Black coal smoke swirled down from the stacks around the new comers as the old ship maneuvered carefully allowing its cargo of humanity to arrive at the docks of Ellis Island. The huddled group stood quietly in the cool air of the early morning while the ship’s engines worked against the rivers current. The only other sounds were those of coughing from the acid smelling smoke filled air. Then, the metal hull of the ship gave a deep thudding sound as the ship came to rest against the wooden pier. It was that moment in which those who traveled so far from home smiled and hugged one another; they felt America’s first touch at the end of their long journey.
They talked quietly as the crew secured the ship and lifted the rusty gang plank into position to enable the human cargo to exit the ship. After what seemed like a great long time, the captain came out from the wheelhouse onto the deck just above them. Without a word, he smiled as he waved his hand in a sweeping motion toward the rusty exit. His indication to the many different nationalities was clear, goodbye and good luck. Each waited their turn to walk down the metal ramp while holding all of their worldly possessions close in hand.
As they stepped onto the land of their new home, many stopped and gave thanks to have arrived. Their moment was brief, because those whose job it was to process the new people were quick to move them into lines for the task which awaited them. Each was given a quick medical check to make sure they were healthy. Then each was moved forward to have their papers checked and country of origin identified. The workers at the facility had done this many times and were efficient and quick at their jobs.
Language was always a difficulty that needed to be overcome with each of the new arrivals. But the workers had learned simple commutation through hand gestures and a few learned words to help process the refugees.
The small man in the gray coat waited patiently in the line, until his turn came to present his papers and talk with the immigration processor. “Name,” he said to the small man who stood with crinkled papers in hand. “Patrizio Buntanelly,” the man said to the uniformed worker. The worker noticed the bundle he carried and motioned for the man to hand it to him. The worker opened it and looked inside. The sack contained a few cloths, the waxed paper with cheese and bread, along with the cold bottle of coffee. It also had a small leather pouch that contained a few tools that the man used in his trade. The worker completed his check and handed the sack back to the man. He then picked up a white tag with a piece of string attached and asked, “Where are you going?”
The man did not understand the question and shrugged his shoulders to indicate his confusion. The uniformed man pointed toward the large doorway out of the building and gestured in a inquiring manner. The small man understood this time and he reached into the pocket of his coat. He pulled out a dog-eared postcard and handed it to the worker. The man at the desk adjusted his glasses as he read the few lines on the card. “West Virginia, Parlorton, West Virginia.” He looked at the man as his handed it back and said, “My friend, you have a long way to travel.” The man did not understand but smiled as he returned the postcard to his pocket. The uniformed worker finished writing on the white tag and handed it to the small man. “Good Luck Mr. Patrick Bundleman.”
The man understood Mister, but was confused by the name that followed. He turned the white tag toward the sitting man and asked with puzzlement in his voice, “Patrick Bundleman?”
The worker pointed at the tag and then at the man, “Your new name,”
The small man spoke quietly, so only he most likely could hear, “Patrick Bundleman.” He had not realized he would have a new name in America. The processor had given him a name, something he had done many times before. His hopes were that a more American sounding name would make the transition easier. As Patrick walked toward the door which led to his new life, the name on the tag was the least of his concerns.
Upon leaving the great building that was the arrival point, he, along with many others, stepped out into a world where they knew little of what awaited them. Some were lucky, family and friends who already lived in the new world welcomed them on the docks. Tearful reunions for some, while others seemed to wonder what next to do.
For a moment, Patrick stood looking at the tall buildings in the distance of New York City’s skyline. This was like no town he had ever seen before. While standing there he felt a hand on his shoulder; it was a young man he had talked with occasionally on their long trip across the ocean. He was from the same homeland and had come to America too. The young man was greeted in the large courtyard by his parents who had arrived in this new world a couple years earlier. After greetings and hugs, Patrick asked the father to help him purchase a train ticket to his destination.
The family of the young man wanted Patrick to come home with them for a few days until he had rested before continuing on his journey, but Patrick declined the offer. With their help, he made his way to the large train station in the heart of the city and with money saved purchased a ticket to a small town along the Ohio River. The goodbyes with his new friends were as if they had known each other for a great long time. In reality it was a brief moment in a journey that started a year ago. As the train started to move he waved to his new friends as they faded from sight. The young man ran toward the window where Patrick stood and cupped his hands to his mouth as he called to the moving window, “GOODLUCK PATRICK BUNDLEMAN.” Patrick smiled as he looked at the white tag on his coat and realized the young had man called him by the name the worker at Ellis Island had given him. He looked forward as the train made its way out of the city into the morning light traveling toward his home he had never seen.