Thursday, March 18, 2010

Baby, Come Home.

Marion Nicholson, August 1917, at Tighsolas, with friends and daughter Margaret, and baby Marion, my late mother in a law.

I've posted this picture before on this blog, although I wasn't quite sure of the context. I have figured it out: I have connected it with a letter I have from 1917, which I've posted below. Hugh Blair, Marion's husband is writing to his wife, begging her, in no uncertain terms, to please come home. She is visiting Tighsolas with her two young children. Flora and Edith are with Hugh, and not taking care of him. I had transcribed the letter and posted it on Tighsolas, even though it was outside of the 1908-1913 timeframe of the Nicholson Family Saga, because I thought it a funny letter. (So had my mother in law, she had tucked it away from the other Nicholson letters.)

Now I see it for what it is: the social context. I get ahead of my story (Flo in the City, about a girl coming of age in the 1910 era, based on the letters of http://www.tighsolas.ca/) but Marion got married in 1913 to Hugh Blair, a typical Quebecker, being of Scotch, French-Canadian and Cree origin. She got married because she was a 'take-charge' person and the only way she could take charge, as a single woman in 1910, was to get married. The letter below shows that she did, indeed, take charge of her household, in such a way that husband Hugh became dependent on her for his very sustainance. It's all very interesting. In the years since 1900, the many new household technologies had freed housewife's time up, considerably, but somehow their duties as mothers and homemakers became more important than ever in the eyes of society. Go figure. This cockeyed trend continued through the century - and Flo in the City, my novel in progress, will attempt to explain what happened.

Now, sisters Flora and Edith were not married. Flora was working as a teacher (and living with Hugh and Marion) and Edith was working as a secretary, in the new pink collar area, at Sun Life.

They didn't have to cater to their brother in law's needs. They weren't beholden to him. They were independent women. Marion was apparently at Tighsolas to tend her sick mother: it can be assumed that she was also there to get a bit of a break from her husband and duties as housewife, since she had just given birth.

Remember, too, a horrible war was still raging, although. I have letters from a October, 1918, where Flora and Edith visit family friends in Montreal, the Tuckers, who have just heard word a son, Percy, has been killed. (Then they hear he is alive, then that he is dead.) Another son, Herb, is at the Belgian front too. He is not killed, and feels guilty. He tells that to Flora, 'his girl' in another letter.


Hugh to Marion

My dearest sweetheart,

I cannot express in writing how pleased I was to hear your voice over the telephone a little while ago and was very sorry when I learned that due to the circumstances, you were not able to come home…Dearest, I have never written you on this strain since I have known you and before I say what I have in mind, I beg of you to please try and understand it in the light that I mean it. For Marion, dear, I love you with all my heart and it is because of my affection for you that I try to pave the way a little. I honestly, would not intentionally hurt you Marion. Now sweetest, here it is: You know, Dear, that you have left me alone at different times for indefinite periods, but may I say that I have never yet found one month to be as long as this one. Really, it has seemed to me almost like years. I would a thousand times rather be left entirely alone than to be left again with the girls, as I cannot get them to do anything which appears to me to be reasonable. I have come home on several occasions and the front and back doors were not locked. They will not close the windows and the house is almost like an oven. They forget to order food. The refrigerator is left open; the ice is melting as fast as you can put it in. Cawlice. Water is running all over the floor and things are lying about. I am sick and tired of the whole place. Take pity on me Darling before I go crazy and come home to me to look after and love me. *but under no circumstances take chances. Take it from me, God help the poor man that gets either one of them, if they don't change. You can do more in five minutes than they can do together in a day. You have forgotten more than they'll ever know. God bless you Marion and may it be God's will that he can spare you to me for many long happy years.

Lovingly,
Hughie,
PS. Don't fail to burn this when finished reading.