Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Christine had just asked me what life had been like when I was her age. I realized the silence had grown overlong as I looked over at her young fresh sixteen year old face. My thoughts whirled as I tried to catch just one fragment from the past. The day I turned sixteen separated itself from the other memories, and I found myself once again looking down on the wharf in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
This was the day we had been waiting for, since boarding the 'Taron' in Liverpool. The voyage had been exiting, but long and tiring. Amelia, Walter and I pressed against the ship's rail that day, so eager to see what our new country looked like. At first we could only see an outline, but as the ship steadily chugged closer the details sharpened into green trees, brown buildings, wooden piers and scurrying people. Mother joined us holding baby Jack as the ship pulled into it's mooring spot. I felt no disappointment, just a sense of fulfillment after a long wait. A strand of hair blew loose from my wound-up braid and I impatiently thrust it back, eager for all my eyes could see. People were gathered below waiting for us to disembark. They called up to friends or family with cries of welcome, adding their voices to the sailors and wharf men yelling instructions. Energy surged around me and I felt my excitement rise with each passing minute. Mother pressed some bread into our hands as we waited, but after one bite of it's staleness, my stomach rebelled and I knew I was too exited to eat.
Each carrying as much as we could, we joined the twisting line flowing down the gangway. As we drew near the wharf, new smells brought my excitement to a fever pitch. For weeks I had smelled the ocean, fish, salt spray, and rain or sun soaked air. Now the smells of cooking food, sweat, wood smoke and grease added their pungency to my eager nose. As we crowded up to the clerk at the counter I hung back, suddenly aware of my stained dress, worn boots and broad accent. He smiled however, and calmly asked my age.
"Sixteen", I told him proudly. "Today... my birthday is today", I added.
Smiling again, he nodded and I knew he understood it was special.
"Grandma?" I heard Christine's voice as if from a far-away land. "Grandma, are you alright?"
How could I begin to tell her of something so different from her life in Los Angeles? How could I share another era, another life? I gathered again the fragments of excitement, and resolved to try.

(Written by Jennie for her great-aunt Janet)

In honor of Janet Patmore Lofthouse

Born: April 26, 1891 Barking, Essex, England
Died: August 15, 1978 Los Angeles, California
Arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on her 16th Birthday


Anonymous said...

Very well done.

Barbara said...

Janet Patmore Lofthouse was my grandmother. I was thrilled to find your blog and your story about her. I have many stories to share, if you are interested. Which part of the Patmore Family do you hail from? I would love to be in touch with you and hope that you will get back to me. If you wish to send an email, my address is:
I look forward to hearing from you,
Barbara Lofthouse Elsea