Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Drawing Closer through Research
His Brother's Bride was a journey for me. The premise if based very roughly on my maternal grandparent's story. From my grandfather I learned compassion for all living things. He taught me how to pick up a bee in a cloth and set it free outside, and how to bathe kittens sore eyes with tea bags. Recently, I received my great-uncle's WWI records as well as my grandfather's. Seeing their Attestation Records with their signatures on it and the stark reality of the notation "missing after action" followed a week later by "killed in action" on Uncle Joe's papers highlighted how senseless war is for me. My grandfather was his only family, I can only imagine how Grampa felt when he got the letter from Uncle Joe's captain. Grampa was in France as well with the Train Corps where he was a Sapper.
I grew up on stories of life in the Ontario bush when my mother was a child. How the wolves would come to the door in the winter and scratch and howl. The black flies swarming in the early spring, neighbors falling through the lake ice while drawing wood, horses and people lost. Life was hard, but it was also good.
Below is a poem I wrote to honour my Grandfather.
I was young when you left us
But I remember still your quiet ways
The way you bore the scars of the Great War
That stole your health and your youth
Not to mention your brother, Joe
I have the pencil written letter on crumpled paper
From his captain telling you of his death
You never spoke of it or the war
I can still see you picking shrapnel from your cheek
As you stood at the sink shaving
You taught me by example
That all life is sacred
From you I learned to nurse the sick and wounded
Animal, plant and human
And how to catch a bee in a cloth against the window pane
Carry it to the door and let it fly free again
I was only young when you left us
But thirteen is old enough to remember you
And your ways and your lessons that weren’t meant as lessons
It was just you going about your life
You walk with me still
This is taken on the Sprucedale farm, my grandfather Herb Pritchard, my grandmother Lois holding my mother on her hip, Aggie St. George (my great grandmother) Lottie Hines (great aunt) and Capel St George (great grandfather)
Seeing their faces and reading my great grandfather's journals brings these people back to life. Research gives an opportunity to reach into the past and touch our roots. Both personal and humanity as a whole. I recently did a course on Hadrian's Wall and seeing the barracks of the Roman army and the aged solidity of items centuries old was profoundly spiritual for me. We are just a link in the chain that stretches behind us and ahead of us, like the stripes on a chipmunk's back that go from the head of his knowing to the tail of his remembering.
I do hope you enjoy my contribution to the Books We Love Canadian Historical Brides series. His Brother's Bride releases today! March 1, 2017. Please stay tuned to this blog for more enticing details about upcoming books in the series.
Now, for your reading enjoyment...A teaser from His Brother's Bride.
July 1st 1916 Dominion Day celebrations were a bit more subdued than previous years. The war to end all wars as H.G. Wells declared on August 14, 1914 was well into its second year of conflict. Luxury items were starting to become scarce. But in the small town of Eganville, Ontario on the Bonnechere River things weren’t as impacted as they were in larger centres.
The harvest promised to be a bumper crop this year, so optimism was high. Annie shoved her hat pin deeper into the nest of her hair, hoping to keep the new straw hat from coming adrift. She was crammed in the bed of the buckboard with her brothers and sisters. Except for Hetty, of course. Riding with a gaggle of siblings was beneath Hetty Baldwin newly betrothed to Clarence Hiram. Dust rose from the well-travelled road, everyone from the surrounding countryside seemed to be headed into town. She leaned over the side of the wagon and peered ahead. Thank goodness, they were almost there. Once Father found a strategic place to park the buckboard, Annie planned to slip away into the crowd and avoid being saddled with her younger sibling. Rotha was two years older than her and could take her turn looking after the little heathen.
On another note, Annie wanted to be out of earshot when Father clambered up onto the back of the wagon and began his hell fire and brimstone preaching. While she admired his convictions and his passion, it was more than a little embarrassing when he got so enraptured that spittle flew from his mouth. The wagon jolted to a halt and she hurried to disembark, being careful not to snag her full skirts on the heel of her new boots. She admired them for a moment before shaking her skirts down to cover all but the toe. It wouldn’t do for Mother to seize the opportunity to lecture her about vanity or showing her ankles.
Giving her skirts one last shake to remove the dust, Annie twisted the strings of the small crocheted purse securely around her wrist. Hetty’s high clear voice preceded her appearance prompting Annie to slip between two groups of gossiping older women and make good her escape from family responsibility. She grinned while putting more space between herself and the wagon. Surely Hetty’s voice could cut glass, given the chance. Stifling a giggle she wriggled past the crowded doorway into Arlo’s General Store. With her small hoard of pennies she purchased some licorice whips and peppermint sticks. Not wishing to linger and be discovered by her siblings who were sure to be headed in this direction, Annie left the establishment as unobtrusively as possible.
Till next time- stay well, be happy and keep reading!