She remained a mystery from afar. Throughout my life I’ve discovered snippets of information, a puzzle with more pieces missing than found. A woman abandoned by her reckless husband, then her children one by one. One lost to scarlet fever, the others tempted away by the promise of a new land, and a new husband. I’ve heard stories of séances held in the kitchen, sharing laughter and ghost stories with girlfriends. I’ve also heard of a passport, a plan to join her family in Canada, before an illness struck her down. My nana, so poor and unable to return for the funeral, was left heartbroken. She spoke of returning to Scotland regularly, we often sat over tea imagining our voyage together. She’d show me the rowhouse where she grew up, the theatre where she was an usher. While she never returned, a seed was planted.
A few years ago, I made that voyage with my mother instead. Armed with a simple street address, and a map of Rutherglen, we were determined to breathe in the scent of our history, tread on the streets, observe the bustle the neighbourhoods. Even more importantly, we needed to find Granny Hill. Others before us had made the attempt to discover her final resting spot, to no avail. She was lost to us, as her family before had been lost to her.
Arriving at the cemetery, vast, somber and foggy I searched the dewy grass for our directions. My contact at the cemetery wasn’t available to assist us in person, but she made a promise, we would find our way. We followed along the green spray-painted arrows, little breadcrumbs guiding us to our past.
Passing faded and worn stones, aisle after aisle the arrows like breadcrumbs guiding to our past, to a missing piece of our history. We found her, in an unmarked grave, identified only be a gap in the row of stones, and a single green-painted X. For all Granny Hill had given us, our strength, compassion, tempers and our favourite banana bread recipe, the only thing remaining is a green x painted on green grass, doomed to vanish with the next pass of the mower. We placed a Canadian flag on the spot, stood in the damp fog, and thanked her.
She is no longer lost to us. Working with family records and the helpful cemetery staff, we have now made the arrangements. The ownership of her grave, once misplaced through administrative twists and turns has been returned to the family. I will soon her plot and will ensure it remains in the family, and will soon be placing a gravestone, one to tell the world that she was a wife, a mother, a source of life. It’s the least I can do for the legacy that she has created, and one delicious banana bread recipe.