Sarah Ann Green Collins

Sarah Ann Green Collins
with her son Henry Hone circa 1916

SARAH ANN GREEN COLLINS...Evans...Hone...Barnes...Breen b.1862 d.1935

A thrice married Englishwoman immigrates to Canada with her 4 surviving children and marries a widowed Ottawa Valley farmer with two children of his own.

This is my paternal grandmother's story RE-IMAGINED lovingly by me.

To post I have to ask you read from #1 and thence backwards to the top of the page.

Hope there isn't Word protocol stuck between the lines now.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

#3 1872 NewGrimsbury Warkworth Northants

New Grimsbury. Warkworth Northamptonshire January 1872
Annie, Mary and I have our eyes closed and we are walking I know I must look at our Mother. I lift my head from Annie’s back and open my one eye just a smidgen. I see Aunt lighting candles and placing them at the head and foot of the casket. Our Mother lies between them.
At least it looks like our Mother. She has the same small hands that taught me to k1 purl 2 and clapped happily when I said all my times tables correctly. She has the same dark shiny hair parted in the middle with curls around her ears. She’s wearing our Mother’s favourite blue dress. It has a wide lace collar with the same edging that our Mother tatted. I don’t know if she has the same blue eyes as Mother, as her eyes will always be closed. She must be our Mother even though I don’t want her to be. Aunt says our Mother’s spirit is in heaven but her body is still here. It must be confusing to be dead; the being in two places at once I mean.
Now we three sisters are lined up along the casket. Each of us make praying hands.
Aunt says, “As soon as the neighbours see your father’s trap pull in our yard they will come to pay their respects.’ Aunt has never spoken more seriously to us excepting the day Mary put Puss in the well bucket. But she does look comical stuffed into the stern black dress she wore at Grandma Bryer’s funeral with her white nightcap. Aunt Dinah does love her sweets just like me. She’s as round and jolly as Mother was thin and quiet and I think she just hasn’t had time to dress her hair what with the undertaker’s visit and taking care of us. I must bite my knuckles to stifle a giggle.
Aunt continues, “You may use this quiet time to tell your Mother your most tender thoughts. The house will be filled with relatives and friends between now and the service on Friday.” Aunt Dinah’s big dark eyes let loose their tears. Her hankie is damp and Annie offers her her fresh one.
“If I had children I would like them to be thoughtful children just like you three. Your Mother entrusted me with your care and I am honoured. Now we must help each other get through this awful time.”
Annie and I realize we have both been holding our breath when we hear Mary exhale loudly. We both gulp air in greedily.
Annie says, “I prefer to talk to our Mother alone.’
Mary says, “I’ll talk to our Mother just before I say my prayers tonight.”
I squeeze Annie’s hand. I have a big hard lump in my chest. I can’t cry and I can’t speak. All I want is for our Father to come home and make this nightmare go away.
Jan 21. 1872
Dearest Diary,
My name is Sarah Ann Green Collins and I live on Middleton Road in New Grimsbury. I am named for my mother’s aunt who lived with our family when my brother George died. He was just a tot. I was born seven months after he died. I was supposed to be a boy but God made a mistake and made me a girl.
I’m telling you this Dearest Diary because this is my private place. Mother gave me this diary last Christmas. She kept a diary only until George died so I know my name is not in it. I will sign my name with every entry and I will make a record of my own life.
I was disappointed to get a diary, as I wanted a new tea set for my dolls. Mary had broken the spout off the teapot. You can’t have a proper tea party with a broken teapot. Mother said, ‘You’ll put your dolls away soon Sarah. You’re old enough to start recording your thoughts and feelings. You talk enough for two children. Put some of those extra words in your diary.’ So I am.
Annie said Mother became very silent after George died. Father told her Mother would brighten up when the baby who was me was born but she didn’t. But when she had her ‘remembering George’ days she was very silent and didn’t answer our questions. That when I started talking to George. Not the real George. To the George who is our angel in heaven. Next to Annie he is my best friend now that we have moved away from Banbury. Now that I have you Dearest Diary I can let George have a rest from my thoughts.
It’s not far from Banbury to New Grimsbury but it feels very far when your friends aren’t just down the lane anymore. Father will be home from Oxford tonight. Oxford’s not far from New Grimsbury either but it feels very far when your Mother had died and your Father is not at home.
Signed, Sarah Ann Green Collins
“Annie. Mary. Sarah. Come to the kitchen for your tea.” ‘
Yes Aunt Dinah’ comes from three different parts of the house as we three sisters trail downstairs to the kitchen. This kitchen is not as big as the one at The Bear in Banbury but it has a large fireplace to cook our food and keep us warm besides. We all miss the inn and the jolly people who came to have an ale there. Annie mostly misses our cousin Walter Ives. He's Banbury too and is working hard every day at the apprenticeship his father secured for him beofre he died last year. Aunt decided to move with us to New Grimsbury. She said Mother was worn out from the move and could use help getting back on her feet. Now I know that Mother wasn’t ever going to get back on her feet.
“I was thinking of sending a fly with a message to your Father in Oxford but I realize that the messenger would likely pass Joseph on the road. It would be unsettling for him to have to drive the trap back here with the bad news and the worry of you three girls on his mind.”
I think to myself that we ‘three girls’ haven’t had one nasty word since Mother passed away. I can’t imagine it can go on forever but it certainly has been quiet without Mary bickering with us.
Aunt ladles thick beef stew from the cauldron on the hob into three white bowls. Then she tucks the bread under her arm and cuts three thick slices. Aunt has made our favourite meal even though she has been busy with 'arrangements' as she calls them. A funny noise is in my throat and escapes without my bidding. Aunt turns from the hob and says,
“Sarah come here love. I won’t have you crying into my nice stew.” She gives me a quick shoulder hug and then turns to wipe down the stove.
“Aren’t you having your tea with us?’ asks Annie.
“You go ahead without me I have a million things on my mind.”
‘Do you think truly our Father will be home tonight? I should like him to kiss me goodnight and say ‘God Bless’ the way our Mother did,” I ask.
I see Aunt Dinah’s muscles working at her jaw line as she straightens her back and gestures towards the back door.
“He had better be. This would not be the time for one of his extended business stays. I swear he thinks more of his uncle’s Pettifer & Sons than he does his own home.”
This is not like our sweet Aunt. I remember the first morning after our Mother died. Aunt didn’t let us see her crying and held us close to comfort us. She has been so sweet with us even when we weep and beg her to bring our Mother back. I remember how much our Mother depended on her with Father doing his new traveling job. Our Mother and her sister were best friends just like Annie and I. I can’t help but wonder who comforts Aunt Dinah now that her best sister is gone and what I would do if I lost my Annie.
‘That’s not fair to Father. He has to work to feed us and keep the house,” it’s our quiet sister Annie.
Aunt thuds the bread knife on the table and we all start and lean away from her. Her eyes drop to her hands as if even she is surprised at the noise. She picks up the edge of her apron. She pleats it and re-pleats it. After taking a big breath she speaks.
‘You’re right Annie. I’m sorry to speak so harshly of your Father. It’s just that I miss your Mother so very much. I’m a mean old bear when people do not do as I wish. Of course he will be home tonight. Please don’t listen to the words of a worried old Maid.”
Same awful day Jan 21
Dearest diary,
I don’t know if I am to write in my diary more than one time each day. I have so many thoughts and feelings whirling around in my head that I feel I must.
I can’t tell Annie or Mary so I must tell you Dearest Diary. The day that Father left for Oxford I was sitting on the carpet behind Mother’s chair. I was playing with my dolls. Father was wearing his dark grey coat that smells of lambs when it gets damp. His green muffler was wrapped around his neck so many times that he looked like a turtle.
He took his leave from Mother over and over again. His clothes were much too warm for Mother’s room and his face was shiny. He would barely get to the bedroom door when he would turn around and come back again to crouch beside Mother’s chair.
Mother was leaning with her tiny face on a pillow on the arm rest and her legs were propped up on the hassock as Doctor had ordered. Aunt had placed the madras shawl around her legs. Father brought Mother that shawl from London his last trip. The chair that looked so cozy when Mother would invite us in for a cuddle now looked too big for a giantess.
My dolls were quite sick that day and I didn’t quite know what to do about it. I gave them thin broth with a teaspoon but they kept getting thinner and thinner just like Mother. I was playing ever so quietly. You must be quiet in a sick room.
I heard Mother say, ‘Just go Joseph. There is no changing what has begun.’
I heard Father choke out a little sob and say, ‘Maria I love you more than life itself.’
Then Mother said quite harshly.
“Do go now. Go to your business deals. The girls and Dinah will care for me.’
Now Father was choking on his sobs. ‘Maria please. I can’t leave you with harsh words between us.’ But
Mother said ‘We have only words left between us. Go.’
I wanted to crawl into a hole under the chair. I knew I shouldn‘t be listening to my parent’s conversation. They had forgotten I was there. I put my head on my knees and tried to cry into my skirt but Father heard me. He came around the chair and lifted me into his arms. I am past ten years old now and I didn’t think he could still lift me. His old blacksmith muscles are still working. I was soon on his knee with my head buried in his greatcoat.
Father had stopped crying and neither he nor Mother said anything for a great long while. I could hear Mother’s clock ticking in time with my heart. When it chimed ten o’clock Father broke the silence.
‘Little one, parents sometimes have harsh words but they are washed away by tears of love.’
I had the same big hard lump in my chest as when Mother died. I could only nod.
Father asked me a very important question. ‘I’m off to business in Oxford but only for two days. Will you promise me something Sarah?’
Again I could only nod. ‘While I am away I want you to take extra special care of Mother. Can I count on you Sarah?’
This time I managed to squeak out a ’Yes.’ Then with a kiss for us both he was gone.
Now what will I do Dearest Diary? Father will come home and find Mother dead. Will he think I didn’t take extra special care of her?
I hear the sound of a horse and trap on the pea gravel. I’ve been waiting and longing for Father to come home all day. I want to run to him and tell him I really did take extra special care of Mother but she died while I was asleep. I want to run to him but I have that big hard lump in my chest again and my feet are frozen to the floor.
Sarah Ann Green Collins

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