At the end of my life, I choose to have memories, not regrets. ~ Dr. Steve Maraboli
Her voice ricocheted along the walls of Time. Maybe she stood where I stood.
Newburgh, New York. George Washington’s northern headquarters during the American Revolution. Did her father shepherd her through a tour of his military service? Part of her extensive, mannish education? Yes, understanding war would’ve been on the program for his girl.
Or maybe she frolicked along this hillside with her son, his fleshy legs no match for hers as they shrieked toward the Hudson. Ah, imagination. Inside her own head, she could do anything.
Reality meant stumbling after her rowdy toddler. Enduring another choppy boat trip to the institute in Poughkeepsie. Arguing with male physicians who averted their eyes at the sight of her mangled lady bits and lied when they assured her of more children. She devoured medical texts, begged for radical surgery, for any man willing to stuff her uterus back where it belonged – lodged inside the folds between her legs, not bulging toward her knees.
Every man denied her request. “Hysteria,” they murmured. “Spoiled. Doesn’t know her place. Just like her scoundrel of a father.”
She threw off her shawl in the bow of the boat and drew strength from the valley’s granite walls. Immovable. Resolute. Like her. She would find a way to heal herself. To help her solitary child reach adulthood. To clear her father’s name.
Instead, she disappeared at twenty-nine. Six months after her son died. She boarded a ship burdened with regrets.
But I heard her, the day I snapped this scene. The moment Theodosia Burr Alston decided she wanted to live. Again.
Photograph Credit: Andra Watkins
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