Monday, February 28, 2011

Reflecting Annie

(Annie, Frank, and Thurston Fairhurst. Victoria,B.C.1912)

There is an old, very battered steamer trunk that sits in my upstairs hallway. The leather handles have ripped off over the years, the hasp is broken, and there are some nails missing. Yet,to me,this trunk is a treasure. It was a wedding gift from my grandfather almost twenty years ago. When he asked me what I wanted for a present, it was the first thing that popped to mind...this time-worn relic from my grandparent's basement.I had always been drawn to it,even as a very little girl. I knew it was a piece of family history. I knew it had belonged to my grandfather's mother, but that was about it. Strangely, I grew up not knowing her name...let alone her story. I changed this about a couple of weeks ago.

I think first,I have to say that I have always been wide awake to those little signs that the universe is always sending us. I personally have been experiencing some very strong shifts and changes in my life that have guided me to beginning this search.

I had been email chatting with my aunt. I happened to ask about her grandparents. She told me that she didn't know or remember much...except their names,and that she thought her grandmother came to Canada from England. With this bit of information, my quest for Annie was sparked...

I have learned that Annie Alker grew up in a family of working poor, in Wigan,Lancashire,England. After her parents passed, she and her older siblings were left to raise the younger ones. When her youngest brother was eighteen, she boarded a ship and sailed to Canada. I find myself with so many questions I wish I could ask her...

I wonder what Annie's head and heart were telling her as she packed the precious and practical bits of one life into that trunk, moving toward another. I wonder how it felt standing on the ship's bridge watching the Liverpool harbour fade,as the rocking of the sea carried her away from her family,to the man waiting for her. I wonder what those early days were like. What was it like to travel across the huge expanse of this country, to an island she'd never been too. I wonder her day to day life was like being a mama to her four children. I imagine her to be a brave, kind, gentle woman with a generous heart,and a great sense of humour because these are the qualities I admired most in her son. I wonder why she followed her love's footsteps out of the world so quickly. Was she just too brokenhearted to go on? Of course, I don't know. No one does.

What I do know is that Annie Alker stepped off the Empress of Britian, and stepped foot on Canadian soil February.18,1911...and that almost 100 years to the day I,her great granddaughter went probing archives, looked through any record I could find for the little bits recorded of her life from the comfort of my couch, with a cup of tea...and warm dog at my side.

I know that Annie's story is very much like millions of other women's stories that came before and after her. In each story there is wisdom and beauty waiting for us...

Annie's trunk, which is filled now with my own family's memories...children's art, report now a daily reminder of her,what was, and what can be.