Friday, June 03, 2011
Oh Granny, I hardly knew ye.
Statue of the Blue Puttees, the Newfoundland regiment, in Ottawa.
She went away to the mainland just the once. His granny. She'd lost her only child, a toddler, blonde little Catherine May, to diphtheria. And she went sideways afterwards. Took to her bed with her face to the wall, her heart so wrung out with grief that there wasn't a tear left in her whole body. When her bones stuck out all over, they wrote to Agnes, the sister in Boston, and asked her to do something as no one around could help her sister at all with her husband out at the fish all the time. Weeds sprung up everywhere and nothing got planted and her own mother had to come in and do the washing and cook and bake on top of raising her own younger ones for Elsie and Agnes were the eldest of seventeen.
Her sister in Boston sent her the train fare on top of the boat fare and it took her three days to get there from here. Here being a small outport in Newfoundland.
I felt loosened up for the only time in my life, she told Vincent, her grandson. Like I was set free. Like there was no rules. Like I didn't have to go to Mass and confession and my skirts could be shorter and my hair all bobbed up and flashy earrings on my ears, and the shoes, my god the shoes. Agnes and I would share our shoes, we had the same lovely small feet even though I say so myself. And stockings, the variety of stockings! Agnes worked for a young doctor, did his cooking and cleaning. He paid her well for this. My, he was so handsome and kind.
Ah, says Vincent, it sounds like you might have had a bit of feeling there for The Doctor.
Oh go on! said Granny, but she blushed and flustered up and dropped her knitting.
How long did you stay in Boston?
About six months that would have been.
And you came back, when?
Oh that would have been just before the War, before your grandfather signed up with the Blue Puttees and went off never to be seen again.
When exactly before the war?
Well that would have been, let me see, the December of 1912.
And how was everything when you got back?
Oh much better. Much better. I got expecting your father right away and that took my mind off Catherine May, and here she paused and her intake of breath shook along the entire length of her body.
And Vincent fell silent.
His father had been born, the biggest baby ever in their village, weighed at the shop at eleven pounds three ounces, on June 15th, 1913.