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


Opeongo Line Clontarf, Renfrew County Ontario Fall 1934
Peg and Morgan burst in the door. Peg drags a potato sack across the floor. Their cheeks are as red as the apples that spill from the sack.
Peg’s smile tells me that she is so proud to have been the one to carry
the apples to me. I wonder how bruised they are after their eventful entrance across the wooden floor. No matter.
“Thank you Peg and you Morgan. Don’t hang back boy. Did you help pick these beauties?”
“Yes Grandma right off the ground. They’re windfalls. Mamma didn’t want them to go to waste.”
“Your Mother is a wonder. Five children and a babe in arms and she still finds time to send you two out for apples for Mick and I.” I wince inwardly as I admit to myself that I didn’t always hold her in such high regard.
"Where is Grandad?” asks Morgan.
“Oh likely out telling your father the proper way to farm.”
Morgan is sniffing around the cupboard looking for anything edible. Even with the meals Laura puts on Morgan is ever hungry, his arms escaping his shirtsleeves. What will he eat like when he gains his teen years? I open the bureau drawer and both Morgan and Peg’s eyes light up. It’s the drawer with the peppermint.
Sucking loudly in unison they’re soon out the door into what’s left of an Indian Summer day. A gust of wind catches the door of the Little House and bangs it back against the wall. Ever-thoughtful Peg runs back to close it.
“Sorry Grandma,” and she’s off like a sprite.
Now what to do with these apples? Applesauce will go well with Laura’s fresh bread and butter. Morgan does love his applesauce. I pick up the reddest globe and polish it to gleaming on my apron. It’s redolent of summer sun and the sharp scent takes me back to another Fall day far in the past.
New Grimsbury Warkworth.England Fall 1873
The wind has been playing tag through the village for days now. The leaves jump up hoyden-like as we turn the corner of the house and head into the wind towards the garden shed. Aunt Dinah has sent Annie and I to get baskets. The windfalls are too plentiful for our neighbour to gather before worms or rot takes them. He offered our family a basket for every two we gather.
“They’ll make good applesauce. Mind not to bring home any wormy ones,” Aunt smiles her round face smile in anticipation of the sweet treat ahead.
I love being chosen to go with Annie. She’ll be seventeen soon and I worry she’ll marry Walter Ives and move away soon.
“Come little sister. I’ll race you to the shed.” Annie’s still fun even though she’s almost grown up. She has longer legs than me and easily beats me to the shed.
The Wisteria lies in wait hanging heavily from the shed. Its loopy tendrils try to capture us. We’re too quick for it and dart safely inside out of the cool wind. The dank coolness rises to greet us from the dirt floor. The sun risks strangulation to send us a few tentative rays through the massive foliage.
“What if the Wisteria grew so fast that it trapped us in here? It would be like The Mill on the Floss. Father would have to come home to hack us out with the kitchen knife.”
“Sarah it was a flooded river that trapped them not a Wisteria,” Annie laughs.
I rush on ignoring her friendly rebuke.
“I would be Thomas as I haven’t grown into my woman’s body yet. You would be Maggie because you have.”
“Oh I have, have I?”
“Yes and Father would be dispatched home and would wander the streets calling our names by day and by night. His throat would grow hoarse and still he’d keep walking and calling,” and I hold my hand over my throat for emphasis.
“Really Sarah you are a bit overly dramatic.”
I shake my head and Annie smiles.
“The Wisteria is wrapped so tightly around our throats that we can’t answer.”
“Stop now Sarah even I am starting to feel like the Princes in the Tower.”
I think who’s being overly dramatic now? If the postman goes by when Annie is expecting a letter from Walter she weeps. Oh true love. I don’t want true love if it makes you weep.
“Now where are those baskets? Mother always kept them near the front wall.”
Mary, ever jealous of Annie and I, has taken to hiding Walter’s letter if Annie isn’t home when the post comes. Annie seems to know when there is a letter is in the house and she hounds Mary until she releases her spoils.
Annie’s rummaging about for baskets has stirred up dust motes. They glimmer in the few captive rays of sun. It’s quiet. No Mary bossing me. No Father away on endless business trips. I like it here.
I stoop to pick up some fallen plant fames and I stack them neatly on the dusty shelf beside the window. Next I spy a row of overturned plant pots. I march them in a neat row along the window ledge. I catch Annie’s bemused smile as she watches me from the back of the shed.
“Oh Sarah you are so like our Mother when you do that.”
“Like Mother?”
“Yes like Mother. She hated messes as much as she hated surprises.”
“Was I a surprise? Being born a girl I mean?”
Annie motions me to the back of the shed where she dusts off a log stump with her hand. She inspects the amount of dust on her hands and then rubs her hands lightly together. She inspects them again. Satisfied she sits on the stump and smiles at me. Such a warm smile.
“Bring over a chair, I mean a stump,” she laughs "and we‘ll have a chat.”
“Will you tell me the story of the day I was born?”
“That same story again?” Annie teases.
“Yes please. I want to always remember it especially my naming part.”
I find two stump candidates and vote for the smaller one. I roll it end over end to where Annie has elected to sit. Now the dust motes are Morris dancing.
To me Annie looks as regal as a queen on her throne and twice as beautiful as our queen. Father calls Queen Victoria “that old black crow” but I am Annie’s loyal subject ready to revere her every word.
”The day Sarah Ann Green Collins was born the sun was shining. Aunt Sarah lived with us then. She was Granny Bryer's eldest sister and she was over fifty years old even then.”
I wiggle on my stump hassock anticipating my favourite naming part of the story. It‘s delicious.
“And then what happened?”
“Well we were in the garden behind The Bear Inn. Do you remember The Bear Sarah?”
“Yes yes. But who was in the garden?”
“Well it wasn’t you silly. You weren’t born yet.”
Annie laughs everytime she tells this part of the story to me. Sometimes Annie thinks she’s funny when she’s not.
“Who was it then?”
“Be patient little sister. Aunt Sarah had made a picnic under the apple tree for Mary and I. We had our dolls outside with us and they were having a tea party. Father told Aunt Sarah to keep us away from the house that day."
“Mother was making the noises women make when they’re having a baby and Father didn’t want us to hear.’
“What were the noises?”
“Well I can’t tell you now can I as I wasn’t near the house. You’ll have to wait until you have your own babies to find out.’
“Not me. I don’t want to do something that makes me make noises that children shouldn’t hear. “
Annie paused and smoothed her apron over her knees before she realized she was transferring the dust from her hands to it.
“Now see what I’ve done.”
“Annie. Annie. More story. Please.”
“It was my turn on the swing. It was a good day for swinging and I pumped the swing so high that I felt I could fly. Fly to India in a hot air balloon.”
“Annie. What about my story?”
“Oh yes. I was swinging really high when Mary grabbed the swing’s rope and I came about like a sail and collided with her.”
“Then what happened? Was I born yet?”
“Not yet. First I woke up with a headache and a big goose bump on my forehead and Mary had an even bigger one.”
“Serves her right. She was yelling?”
“Mary was yelling.’ It was my turn’ and Father was standing over me. He blocked the sun.”
“What did he say? What?”
“He said,’ Let’s get you two heathens cleaned up. You’ve a new sister to meet.’ ”
“He called us heathens?’
“It means we weren’t acting ladylike.”
“Were you happy I was born?”
“Yes I wanted a sister. Mary was turning out to be nasty and I was hoping for a new sister. I got my wish.”
“Were Mother and Father happy too?”
“Sarah. Mother and Father were still sad about George. Mother never stopped being sad about George.”
“But they did love me didn’t they Annie?”
“Oh Sarah we all loved you. You had a face like a rosebud even if your stinky nappies didn’t smell like roses,” Annie laughed.
“All babies have stinky nappies.”
“That’s true.”
“Tell me the naming part now. Please.”
Annie closed her eyes. Had she forgotten my favourite part?
“If you’ve forgotten it’s alright Annie. I think I can even tell it myself. I’ve asked you to tell it so many times.”
“Would you like to give it a try Sarah?”
I straightened my back and lifted my chin as I stood up. This was important. It was the first time I’d told my naming story myself.
“You and Mary and Father went upstairs to Mother’s room.”
“You forgot Aunt Sarah.”
“Oh yes and Aunt Sarah too. Was Mother awake?”
“All stood by Mother’s bed except for you. You were hiding in Aunt’s skirts. Mary scrambled over the bed to Mother and said she was going to name the new baby.”
”That’s right Sarah. Keep going you’re doing a good job.”
“Then I think you said something…”
Now Annie stood up and struck a pose that any stage director would be proud of. She raised her right hand as if pointing to God and said and her most authoritative voice,
“She shall be Sarah Ann Green Collins.”
“I love this part.”
“You were swaddled in a pink blanket. Father picked you up from Mother’s bed and put you in Aunt Sarah’s arms.”
“Was she happy?”
“Oh yes and proud too.”
“What did father say then?”
“I think that you know this part by heart Sarah.”
“I do. It’s my very favourite part. Father said, ‘A big name for a little girl’”
Clontarf 1934
The sun went behind a cloud and I started at the sudden darkness in the middle of a sunny day. I was trying to remember something about that other Fall day so far in the past. The sun went out and we stood with our arms around each other. I remember crying. Why was I crying? Is there a piece of the story missing?
I have an ache near my ribs again today. I rub it hard with my knuckles. Doesn’t help. To the task at hand. Make the applesauce.


Anonymous said...

All my imagination except the dates Kathleen

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