They sat, side by side, anchoring the material together alongside their sisterhood. Shaded from the autumn heat by the veranda, their cane chairs creaking as they stitched. The quiet conversation lost to the sound of the crispy colourful leaves rustling in the breeze. The scent of fall in the air hidden by the tantalizing aroma of the turkey roasting in the oven. Much earlier in the day the brothers had dispatched, with minimal wasted movements or chatter, that job. Now they were tidying up after the harvest season and anticipating how tasty supper would be.
Thanksgiving on the farm meant turkey and dressing but also apple salad, turnips and pickled carrots. The pumpkin pies, handcrafted by the mother, were cooling and the morning milk had been separated for whipping cream. The likes of which could not be found in a store, ever.
The farm sits nestled back from the road with the tall red barn beckoning the prosperity that these second generation farmers were enjoying.
100% of what I have written is conjecture except that implies someone like an expert witness who can draw conclusions. What I’ve written is a romantic vision of my ancestral home deep in the heart of Midhurst County Ontario.
The two women on the porch are my grandmother, Jean Boady Spence, and her sister Eunice. In the fall of 1916 they would have been intently sewing on her trousseau and wedding gown as her wedding was set for January 1917. Her mother, that my dad remembers as grandma Spence, would have been overseeing their activities. Were all four brothers still there, of that I’m uncertain. I’ve never done a World War I search to see if Ernest, Harvey, Jim or John served overseas but being from a farm perhaps not. I don’t recall any family stories from my dad or uncles about relative in the trenches.
I also know that my Bompa, Henry Norman Dunn, was born in Ontario and moved west with his brother, Jo in 1904. How he met my grandmother my mom and I do not remember if indeed we ever knew. We do know he went east to marry her and returned in the spring to Ogema, Saskatchewan. But sometimes the barren facts seem so sparse that I like to daydream of stories and scenes from their life.
Which begs the question of why I never asked my Nanna her life story. She died when I was 22 so I had ample opportunity but somehow at the time it didn’t seem important. So now I am drawing out stories from my mom, looking at my scribbled notes from talking to my dad and hitting the internet to see what it says. Apparently it’s good to have a unique name.
But now the details lay lost in time. Tidbits remain half forgotten half remembered by a few relatives. So much becomes blurred as time marches on and yet the old photos remain. Sadly there is no one to point out who is who. But is it important?
I find myself grappling with this question on a threefold front.
As a new grandmother I wonder what will be remembered of my life and times after I am gone. Will our grandchild(ren) know how her grandparents met or where they were married? What info will have been passed along and what will have slipped away into dust.
But I’m not being just morbid here because sharing and knowing your family history is like your own tree of life. And the second front demonstrates that. My dad’s younger sister moved to British Columbia in the early 50’s so her children didn’t get to do family suppers and holidays with a big family. They weren’t, intrinsically on an absorption level at the dining room table, exposed to the same amount of family lore. I started back down into the family tree because of a request from my BC cousin. Her mom is gone now and so when she needed some info for her son’s upcoming wedding she turned to the prairie cousins. I had the info because I’m interested and love the bigger “longer” picture backwards.
Which is why, on the third front, I’m saddened. On my mother’s parental side we’ve had world wide reunions since the 1980’s. The England Canada visiting started during the second world war with my Uncle, continued with his cousin to Moose Jaw and then my mom to England in the 70’s. Our Bowyer Bradford side was having a family gathering in Riverhurst and when two Ontario cousins and the English/Auzzie cousin showed up a world wide theme was born. Every five years we travelled somewhere; Australia, England, Ontario or good old Moose Jaw or Riverhurst. No one this year wanted to host in Ontario and I was seriously tempted to myself even though it would be hard from a distance. We created such good connections from our reunions and fostered ties that were forged before 1900 in Bottisham England.
I guess times change and people move on. If we keep the individual family connections up then Baby A will remember going skiing at her grandmother’s cousins place in Castelgar or Spencer will remember getting together with Felicity in Liverpool. Those threads of memory can bind us together.