This is my maternal grandmother, Verna (Vernette)…born in January of 1885 at Bear Island, Queensbury Parish, Province of New Brunswick, Canada.
Her father had both a farm and a general store there—he sold flour, meal, dry goods, groceries and hardware. Her chore on the farm was caring for the chickens – feeding, cleaning the coop, collecting eggs, which she sold in her father’s store for her first earnings.
She relocated to the USA when she was just twenty-one years old; eventually worked as a nurse at Faulkner Hospital in Boston, where she met my grandfather. She was his operating nurse for a few years, then married him in 1911.
She lived the rest of her life in Boston.
The photo was taken by my grandfather in 1911, at Bear Island, where they traveled to be married in her parents’ living room – their honeymoon was a week-long fishing and canoe trip along the St. John River (note the rod by her side, resting on the seats). She looks pretty fashionable: dark hose, skirt, middy blouse with tie; her hair’s swept up a la Gibson.
I have her eyes.
She fished for her supper in the St. John River as a child, fished later on in the lake near their summer house in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. She taught me to fish in that same lake; I caught my first perch in the shadow of Mount Monadnock—I remember the quiet grinding of the oarlocks as my grandmother rowed me about in that soft, purple light.
She loved dogs (several cocker spaniels, oftentimes in pairs), fast cars (my mother remembered her bombing around Boston in a bright yellow roadster). She ate apples and ripe pears (Bosc preferred), liked the smell of horses and farmyards; she insisted the alphabet ended in “zed.” She talked to crows, made fantastic blueberry pies, sewed matching pajamas for me and my teddy bear, took me for long walks in the woods and taught me to build houses for the Little People (who, she said, migrated to and from Canada with the geese every spring and fall). She bought me jeans and soft flannel shirts, Red Ball Jets and sweatshirts.
And she loved me; she was the first person in my life who accepted me unconditionally.
I adored her.
She died in Boston on May 27, 1957.