I did not want to be here. The relentless shrieking of the crows, the tall, itchy stalks of grass. Oh, why did my parents send me here, to the middle of nowhere, in a farm in Connecticut? They said it would soothe me, they said it would relax my soul. They are wrong. I am bored out of my mind.
“Oh, Janie!” the screeching voice of my grandmother called. “Would you be a dear and bring me a can of peaches from the basement? I’m making your favorite peach pie!” My groan is muffled by the scratchy blanket. She knows how much I hate her pie, but I drag myself off of the bed and down the steep stairs to the basement. I grope around the wall looking for the light switch. There it is. Light floods into the small room. I find the rack labeled Peaches. My eyes are still adjusting to the light, and I don’t notice where my hand is going until I feel a tiny crack. My eyes focus, and my hand is touching the wall behind two peach jars. I really need glasses, I think. I move my hand away and I take two peach jars by the handles. Only when I shuffle to the steps with peach jars in hand, do I realize what my rough fingers touched. A crack in the wall! I say to myself.
I set down the peaches on the floor and race back to the shelf. I gently slide the rack away from the wall, carefully making sure I don’t drop any jars. And what do I see? A very thin outline of a doorway, about my height! My first thought is to slide the rack back across the door and forget about it, but a surprising burst of curiosity never known to me vetoed this idea. I run my hands all over the dusty surface. My hand comes across a small impression of a keyhole. I quickly stand up, and my foot kicks something metal on the ground. I look down, and I see a small golden key! I pick the key up and hesitantly fit it in the lock of the door. I turn once, counter-clockwise, and…
The mysterious passageway opens! I want to turn back, to escape from this mystical doorway, but that new curiosity takes control of my feet and carries me into an underground world. I step out into the stuffy air and look around. It seems to be a network of tunnels, one after the other. I feel claustrophobic the first few steps into this unknown. I feel like the walls are closing in on me, but my body adjusts to the underground pretty quickly. Every corner I expect to see the door through which I came, but it is always another long corridor. Slowly, my brain goes into panic mode. How can I get out? Will I die down here, lonely and hungry and thirsty? I want to sit down and cry, but I forge on, determined. Will I make it to the door before I collapse with thirst?
5 Hours Later
Finally, after almost giving up hope, my bleary eyes see the door that I came through. I had wandered for five hours, hopelessly searching for the entrance way, and at last, it was here. Half unconscious, I drag my tired body into the musty air of my grandparents’ basement, so similar yet so different from the dark and dank tunnels. It is filled with people. Everyone starts bombarding me with questions. “Where were you? Do you know how worried we were? We thought someone kidnaped you!” Though I think that no one will hear me, I murmur, “ I think I was in a section of the Underground Railroad.” The closest people around me grow silent. Then gasps from all around.
“But, we’ve lived here for 20 years and we never knew this,” my grandmother’s shaky voice cries out.
A policeman replies, “We’ve had reports from all over the eastern half of the U.S. that people have found parts of it. We’ll do some research and get back to you in a few days.” On that note, everyone shuffles up the steep steps of the basement. I don’t look back, never wanting to go back in that terrifying place.
One Week Later
The research comes in. I was right. Number 1 Mountain Spring Road, Farmington, Connecticut was officially put down as a Underground Railroad site. And it was all thanks to that sudden burst of curiosity. I never felt that before. I never would have if I hadn’t come to Connecticut.
A few days later, my grandfather offered me a hardcover book about the Underground Railroad. I took it out of his frail-looking hands and looked him in the eye. “How did you know that I would be interested in history?” I ask.
He replies with a twinkle in his eyes, “You never explored as a toddler. I knew that someday, that would have to change. No one can come out of this experience and not be interested in how the world changed.” He smiles at me. “Oh, Jane.”