My Place in the Line

Mrs Emma Jane Simpson
My Place in the Line      20th September 1831
If I talk more about my Grandam than my mother in these recollections, it must not be thought that I did not love them equally.  But my grandmother was the one who passed down her gifts – and her wisdom – to me. 
 My mother, despite having borne two daughters, was different to any mothers of anyone else I ever met.  She was a fey creature – with her enormous, clear, grey eyes and her red hair, un-capped,  tumbling down her back in a manner only used by young girls.  She seemed often to live in a different place to the rest of us and would sometimes rise, deep in the middle of a conversation, and simply wander off with a vague murmur and a sweet smile.  No-one ever begrudged her this licence.  For if I were a "wild" woodland creature, my mother was of the faery kingdom; and no-one could pin her down to the world of us  mortals.
What my mother had inherited from my grandmother was her story-telling gifts.  'Tis the reason I never learned to read or write: for a lifetime within my little family had taught me more of the world, and its history, than any school of which I've ever heard.
But that summer, with the Red Lady of Cheapside, as we trudged along dusty roads flanked by fruit trees and brambles and interspersed with cool, clear streams, I first heard  of the dire world into which my faery-mother had been born, 
My grandmother told us that though all may speak of the Potato Famine which came later, not many know that 'twas the winter of 1740 which preceded it which had been the cause of all the trouble.  That winter came to be known as The Great Frost around County Cork and my grandam's tales of frozen rivers, icy cold, hunger and extreme cold gave a nightmare quality to her tale. Especially when she told us of the birth of my mother which my grandmother endured, in a shelter made of snow and and dry foliage in the company of a dead woman! It did make me shiver to hear.
'Twas thus, in my twelfth year, that for the first time I saw my mother and grandmother not  as they had always been – but as people with stories of their own: stories of a time before I even existed in the world.
Other things became clear to me that summer.  I understood why my grandmother, who had seen men, women and children die around her, had no wish to live in towns, where Aldermen and Sheriffs and even the well-meaning, could not help these populations in times of need. I saw with clarity, how she had fiercely protected us by teaching first my mother and then my own self, how to live in harmony with the nature she felt was our natural estate.
I began to understood full well  what it meant to be a woman who had her place in a long line of women which stretched back, as my Grandam was wont to say,  to the time when families first began. I had never felt lonely in my life, but I had, until that summer,  felt that the three of us were three apart (even from my sister Joan). But as the balmy weeks went by I came to see myself as part of a long, foredained line. It were as though  I did suddenly understand what my place in that line was; and how it behoved me to take my place in it - with all the gifts and skills and stories of my own to pass down to the women who would come after me.
I have had cause therefore, since last I wrote, to reflect that, childless as I am, mayhap my journal hath a purpose: not just to tell tales to Eliza but to pass on all I would otherwise have passed on through my own child? Through this very journal there would be no break in this long, ancient tradition of the lore of the women of our family! And my Determination came upon me once more, loud and strong: I must learn to write all down – not just the things I think Eliza wishes to hear. I must write down all that I have to say to  Eliza's children's children so that they know from whence they came. And may my words comfort them that they are never alone.
I say I never felt alone - but that always I had thought of we three - maid, mother, crone - as representing all our womenfolk; and so it behoves me to speak of another thing that happened in the summer of my twelfth year. For this was when I learned that  the women of our family comprises not only we four who had set out from Ireland, but mayhap scores of others!
My grandam had never made any bones about the way in which she sent my Grandfather packing after the birth of my mother.  It was only during that trek that I be-thought me to ask her how, if that were so, she had known he had settled in the far off colonies? And what of  the village with the strange name of Medecine Hat? 'Twas a name I had long thought culled from my Grandams fancy. 'Twas then that she told me this tale:
At the height of the last Great War (against the little Frenchman, Boney,) there was a knock one day upon the cottage door.
Beyond the door stood a large, strapping young man in uniform, but whose speech was of an unfamiliar cast. Over a bowl of hot broth next to the fire, this young man revealed himself to be not only the son of my grandfather...but to be the younges of all 11 children.  There were 10 who came before him and all were girls!
At this my Grandam had cause to laugh both loud and free and thank all the gods and spirits of the world that she had escaped the fate of her successor, " Imagine", she lauged in the telling of the tale "to be made to repeat the performance ten times before the wretched man considered one to have done ones' duty!" and she would cluck, and snort, and laugh again at her lucky escape.
But to me, in that summer when I became a Woman, came the thought unbidden, that I had, somewhere at the edge of the world, ten Aunties! Thus, had even some of them married, I probably had scores of cousins!
And of these scores, many would be girls too.  It seemed to me that the world had suddenly become a much more exciting place: and I was determined to find out more about it, in the hope of meeting these far-distant relatives.
'Twas the first time ever that I saw all  around me a world of different possibilities; or became desirous of learning more about the world outside our realm; of meeting people not of my ken.
 For sooth, it was that summer that led me to my George.