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Hey Old Scout…

Dear Rosa,

If you met Martin Dyer, he would’ve been a boy. I only knew him as an old man with long white hair.

We called him “Marty” and he’d greet us each day with a wave and his signature call… “Hey old scout!”

Marty rented a room from my gram and a barn from Mrs. Duprey that lived just next door. He drove an El Camino two miles an hour from one house to another. So slow, you could walk and get there faster. Later, long after Marty had passed from this world, I pointed at an El Camino and noted how it was an “old man’s car.” My husband laughed and told me they were one of the fastest cars on the road.

Fast. Really? Who knew…

Marty ate lunch at Grams. Each day she would lay out 8 pieces of white bread, slathered with butter and a bowl of soup or such. The man was huge. I asked him one day, how he could eat so much. He just winked and smiled. “Gotta stay strong for hunting.”

Ah, yes, hunting. My dad says Marty lived for that.

Marty towered over my gram, but she never took lip from him. She was “Mrs. Ferry” even though he was older. She’d wag a little finger at him and say “don’t get fresh” if he tried to call her Mary.  He knew where the line was and he never dared to cross it.

He was no relation – I never felt compelled to call him uncle – but it seems important somehow, that others know that he lived and laughed and had a purpose. So maybe just for today, when you greet someone, a stranger even, give them a large wave and Marty’s hello…

“Hey old scout!”

Rosa

such sweet torture…

Dear Rosa,

The month of March is such sweet torture! Warm weather, followed by cold. Melting snow followed by a fresh foot and all of us just itching to get outside and rake! I thought I’d write a little story, nothing too fancy, just a reflection on what March 10th might have been for you…

********************

Rosa woke early and shivered. Why were March mornings always so cold? She hurried to dress in the thick robe and slippers, careful not to wake Henry. He needed to rest. She wouldn’t take any chances with this benign cold – too often they turned into pneumonia.

The floor board squeaked nearest the door, so she tip-toed around it, satisfied with her stealth and silent departure. She’d get the fire started downstairs and breakfast cooking, and maybe even a chore or two done before he rose.

Rosa rubbed her hands and moved into the kitchen. Her kitchen, she noted, was poorly lit but always well-organized. She didn’t need to see – she knew where everything was stored.

The song she hummed was old. The origin was long ago forgotten, but it was all she had left of her French grandmother, Mary Bourdeau. Now there was a tough women, Rosa thought as she set the kettle to boiling. Birthing all those babies in Canada, watching her husband, Louis follow the work trail, returning only long enough to baptize the last child, and start the next one.

She smiled as she thought of her mother, Elizabeth, and the stories of her childhood. How they’d wander the family farm and knew where all the good swimming and fishing holes were. It wouldn’t have been easy. The smiled faded. Life in rural Canada had driven the Blains to the United States in search of work. Forget about riches, they sought to survive, to put food in the  mouths of all those babes.

The first ray of sun broke over the mountain, casting Rosa’s kitchen in a warm, golden light. She took a sip of tea and stared out the window. Today, she’d throw open those sashes, beat out the rugs, line the rails with blankets. Today, she’d freshen the air in her house and maybe even let that damned fire go out.

Today, the March breeze would be warm and soft and inviting. Tomorrow, she knew, would probably be just the opposite. No one understood better the capricious nature of March than Rosa.

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I just had to do it – “Mom” aka Kassie – has such a delightful way with words!

Maybe someone should write that down...

Well, well, well…

PD_0105

The subject of “names” is a rather touchy one in some factions of the family…around here anyway.  I was named “Kathryn” as a political move.  I had enough Grandmothers on all sides with that name, in various spellings, and at various positions (first, middle, patron saint, baptismal) to make most of them happy.  I was not the first grandchild on either side of my family, but I was the first granddaughter on both sides!  Another of my illustrious firsts.

When I went to school, there were 7 little girls in 1st grade at Perry Elementary named Kathryn in some form or another.  So, probably, their families had the same sort of “thing” going on.  If this had been a big school, then Cathy, Kathy, Kathryn, Cathleen, Katherine, Katy, and other Kathryn would have been insignificant.  However, this was a farming community.  The schools were small.  The 4…

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Rosa

Meet the Blaines, I mean the Blairs, I mean the Blains…

Dear Rosa,

What a twisting, roller coaster of a ride this genealogy process can be. First, you were Blaine, then Blair, and now back to Blain. Never Scottish, but French! And when we go a bit further back, your family was Hablan. Wa-what???!!

So, I thought it might be kinda cool for you to see a few of the official Canadian records, starting with Newell Blair, my great-grandfather. Here he is, as listed on his baptismal certificate in Canada:

newel

Ah, Newell you are Noel!

And remember the mighty Louis Blair, aka, Enos Louis Blair? Allow you to introduce my Civil War hero and Newell’s father and mother:

louismarriage

Pretty cool, huh? Even cooler is this next one. Here are his parents. Remember Enos Blair, born 1794 in Canada? No? That’s okay. He’s the one that stumped me from the beginning and now I know why. Check out the name and sound it out (the “g” is silent in French). Ignace Blain… hear it? Ignace – Enos? Yippee!!

ignaceblain

I mean, how very interesting (this is me clearing my throat) and look, there are his parents, Jacques and Pauline.

And so you see, in a perfect world, I would be showing you proof positive that my Blairs originally came from Scotland. Alas, they were never Blair, but Blain and Frenchmen all. I suppose really should learn how to read and write French.

Now just where did I put that blasted dictionary?

(I really have to give a shout out and heartfelt thank you to Lou – my third cousin and partner in all this mayhem. Rosa would be so touched to learn that a descendant of her sister, Sophia, is such a nice man!)

Blair Family Fiction

In the span of a heartbeat…

Dear Rosa,

How close I came to never being born, how stunning that in the span of a heartbeat, one life ended and sent another onto a different journey.

Genealogy can be very dry, very boring stuff. I’ve watched my children’s eyes glass over when I make a new discovery. It’s only when I put that discovery in perspective that they understand.

This is important, what I’m doing. It means something, if only to me.

So, in typical Sue-fashion, I’ll share that little discovery in the form of a story.

A preface; I’m sorry for the sadness, and I don’t mean to be morose, truly, it’s just so damned rotten that this had to happen…

********************

Henry Lucius Ferry rubbed his face, trying to restore calm when all he really wanted to do was scream. To say it’d been a long, dreadful three days would be such an understatement as to cause a man to lose control. And control was all he had left.

Calamity had struck his new family. He watched his wife of one year, a lovely woman of but twenty-six, Blanche Adams struggle through every breath. He listened to each one and prayed it would be followed by another. Come morning of the third day, Henry sensed a shift in her spirit and had sent for the doctor once again.

Damn it, isn’t one death enough? He thought and stifled that scream. Lawrence, his child, had died in his arms. The infant would never grow up, never know his father or mother, never know how much he was loved. And Blanche, his Blanche, now lay struggling from exhaustion. The birth, it seemed, would cost another…

Henry turned at the sound of the door opening, grateful to see it was the doctor, hopeful the man would find a way to restore his wife, or at least bring comfort as she died.

This was Henry’s time of trial and one so many others had faced. So why did he feel so numb? And how would he carry on, alone, with promises unkept and memories not created?

She left him then, he sensed it. Heard that last breath and knew another would not follow.  Perhaps losing Lawrence had been too large a shock.

Henry looked at his wife’s face, suddenly peaceful and sent a prayer windward:

May you hold our son,

know love and joy instead of this brutal heartache;

May the two of you suffer no more.

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Here are just the facts as I learned only today:

Henry Lucius Ferry married Blanche D. Adams on June 1, 1909

Lawrence Ferry was born on December 14, 1910 and died December 14, 1910

Blanche Adams died on December 17, 1910 due to “exhaustion from prolonged labor”

After Blanche died, Henry married Mary Julia Blair, my grandmother and they bore eight children. One of them, the youngest, was my father, Henry Ferry.

Mary · Rosa

Mary’s time of grief…

Dear Rosa,

I hoped this day would come. That I would know where you and Henry rested, where I could go and pay my respects, maybe introduce myself and let you know that you are remembered. I found you yesterday, buried in a little cemetery in Duxbury, Vermont.

There’s only one left who actually met you. My dad, your grandson, Henry. He was just a kid when you died, but he still remembers his Grammy Blaine. And so, I’ll paint a picture of that day and let the words flow…

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October 16, 1944

It would be Mary’s time of grief, of letting go and so Henry would see to the burial. Rosa, his wife of over fifty years, had finally lost to the silent disease that had racked her body, left her bed-ridden and in pain.

He opened his arms and Mary crawled inside. So tiny, just as his Rosa, he thought and felt her trying to hold back her sorrow so she could continue on with the day ahead. She had five sons still fighting in the Great War. All would need her care and comfort when they returned home.  She would have to be strong for them.

“Where?” She sniffed into his sleeve.

“She’ll rest with Freddie.”

It was Rosa’s final request and one Henry agreed to without hesitation. A mother should be with her child and so he’d purchased a plot in the little cemetery where they’d buried their son, Freddie, over thirty years ago.

“I’ll be there one day, too, Mary,” he pulled back to search her face. “You’ll see to that?”

She nodded.  “As you should, Papa.”

“I’m sorry that she won’t be here with you, in Northfield.”

“She needs to be with Freddie. He shouldn’t be alone.”

Mary wiped her eyes and pulled away. He knew the day she faced, the grief she’d have to hide in order to cook and prepare for family that continued to arrive with the word of Rosa’s death. The Boivans, the Blains, there were too many to count and more would only come throughout the week to pay their final respects.

And the daughter-in-laws, the ones with babies – her grandbabies- they would need her strength to get through the calamity of war. They would need to see her face death with compassion and grace.

There’s just too much weight for those tiny shoulders…

Henry watched Mary leave the room and fought back a flood of grief. Not yet, not till this is over and I can be alone. This pain was for him and no one else to see. Soon, he knew, and not too far in the future, he would take his place beside his wife and son and they would be a family once again.

In death, he could give little Freddie what he could not do in life: he could give him forever.

**********************

Henry and Rosa Blaine are buried in a tiny cemetery next to their beloved child, Freddie Blaine.

Rosa

Elizabeth Blair, my great-great grandmother…

Dear Rosa,

I’ve learned quite a few things this past week. All good. Some startling, most just down right amazing. My heartfelt thanks goes out to Lou, my 3rd cousin re-discovered, a man as generous with his time as his knowledge of French Canadian genealogy.

So, here I am, sitting and typing and trying to process all this new information about you, Rosa, and your wonderful, hard-working emigrant family. I’ve months of stories in the making, some already beginning to percolate. For now though, I thought I’d just share a little about your mum.

Elizabeth Blair Drinkwine. My great-great grandmother.

ElisabethBlairDrinkwine-photo1

It all started with her. She was the one that stumped me, mystified and eluded. I couldn’t find her, no matter how I searched.

Until this fall, when I finally found her death certificate and realized, she’d been there all along. That her father was Newell’s, that his parents were Louis and Mary Blair.

Just a few facts for you now – I don’t wish to overwhelm or bore. Just a few simple numbers that reflect a woman’s life a hundred and fifty years ago.

Ready?

Elizabeth Blair was born in Lacolle, Canada in 1849.

By 1860, she was living in Jericho, Vermont with the Borrowdales as a domestic servant.

She was just 11 years old.

There are laws against this now.

By 1865, Elizabeth is married to a man more than thirty years her senior. John Boivan, a widower, has already sired 11 children. She becomes mother to them, most are her age, some might be even older.

There are laws against this now, too.

By the time John dies of old age, Elizabeth has had 9 children with him. All told, the man has 20 children.

This isn’t a picture of John. None exist that I know of. No, this is Peter Drinkwine. John’s brother? One of his sons? That I don’t know yet either.

I have to hope she found some happiness with this man. God knows she deserved it.

So, there it is and I am tired, but satisfied. You know, like a sleepy cat, resting up? The journey, you see, is only just beginning…