In late September, I took a road trip to Prince Edward Island with two childhood friends during the week all three of us were 55 years old. We spent the weekend driving through New England and New Brunswick to get there. On Monday, we visited Green Gables Heritage Place in nearby Cavendish, then walked through the Haunted Wood to Montgomery Park and L. M. Montgomery’s childhood home, finishing up with a short drive along the shore. Tuesday was very rainy, so we decided it was the day for museums, beginning with L. M. Montgomery’s Birthplace in New London.
After browsing the memorabilia at her birthplace, we drove a few miles down the road to Park Corner, where a barn had a big “GREEN GABLES MUSEUM” painted on the side at Silver Bush, the home of L. M. Montgomery’s Aunt Annie and Uncle John Campbell and her “merry Campbell cousins.”
Silver Bush was special to me, because it was a place L. M. Montgomery loved with all her heart. She hadn’t lived in her birthplace long enough to remember. The childhood home where she lived with her grandparents had been torn down. And “Green Gables” was a place some cousins lived that she’d used as a model for her fictional heroine’s home, but not a real place she’d actually lived. But a much-loved family of cousins lived at Park Corner, and Maud spent a lot of time visiting there. After she got married and moved away from the island, this was a place where she was sure to stay when she came back for prolonged visits.
At L. M. Montgomery’s Birthplace, we’d seen a replica of her wedding dress. At Silver Bush, we saw the actual room where she’d gotten married.
A card next to this screw on the landing says: “As one goes upstairs one sees the screw on the stair landing that Lucy Maud Montgomery used to measure her height by – first she said it came to her nose and then to her knees.”
A good friend of mine, Erin MacLellan, a writing buddy, had happened to visit Prince Edward Island just before my friends and me, leaving the same day we arrived. At this museum, I finally thought to look for her name in the guest book, and there she was, just a couple days before me!
A real live cat was sleeping in the cradle in this room!
Maud was such a frequent guest at Silver Bush, she had her “own little bedroom.”
In The Story Girl and The Golden Road, the Story Girl tells about “The Blue Chest of Rachel Ward” – a chest of one of her relatives’ wedding goods, sealed up when the wedding didn’t happen, and opened when the bride-to-have-been died many years later. That was a real story, and the blue chest was here at Silver Bush, with its former contents in a display case here.
All the museums had some first editions of L. M. Montgomery’s books, but these were autographed to the family that lived here, her cousins and aunt and uncle.
Emphasizing how much L. M. Montgomery drew from her own life and the lives of her clan on Prince Edward Island, the caption on this cupboard told us that these dishes were from “New Moon,” her Aunt Emily’s home.
Next to Maud’s Crazy Quilt was an extended quotation from her journal:
I was from twelve to sixteen completing the quilt – five years; and verily it was “Love’s Labors Lost,” for by the time I had finished it crazy patchwork was out of the fashion. My crazy quilt has been lying folded in that trunk ever since – and will continue to lie folded. Perhaps future generations may regard it as a curiosity as we look upon old samplers now.
Nevertheless, I felt many a tug at my heart as I looked over it today. It was compact of old memories; almost every gay piece or bit of embroidery called up some long-ago incident or place or face. As for the dreams sewn into that quilt, they were as thick as Autumn leaves in Vallambroso.
A great part of the delight of “crazy” work was the excitement of collecting pieces for it – silks, satins, velvets – for of no meaner materials might genuine crazy patchwork be made. Old boxes and drawers were ransacked and long hidden bits of finery joyfully found and used. Contributions were levied on all my friends. Did one get a new dress or hat a bit of the trimming must be begged. Sometimes the work was at a standstill for weeks because of lack of scraps. But eventually enough were collected and the quilt completed – a quaint cypher of many and many an old gayety and vanity and heartbeat. Sometimes I sent away a dollar to an American silk firm and received a package of pieces about four inches square cut from remnants. They were always very rich and beautiful, with the glamor of the outer world about them – the world of wealth and fashion where “grande dames” disported themselves in whole robes of these materials. It was a never-failing diversion of my chums and me to “choose out” the various dresses we would have if given our pick of those gay samples.
There are many pieces of dresses from my mother and aunts in that quilt. Many wedding dresses figure there. And all are covered with intricate stitching. The result is a very nightmare of jumbled hues and patterns. And once I thought it beautiful!
Well, after all, it gave me pleasure in the making and so what matters if the result was not worth while? I had “the joy of the working” and that was the essence of heaven.
Looking out the window, I doubt the view was very different from what Maud herself used to look out and see.
I admit, though, that I very much want to come back to Prince Edward Island and visit Silver Bush on a sunny day. Maybe even splurge for “Matthew’s Carriage Ride” – though that should really be from the train station to Green Gables, not here in Park Corner. There are trails on the grounds here, too, that L. M. Montgomery used to take, but we didn’t want to try them in the rain. Instead, we spent a good amount of time in the lovely gift shop. I took a picture of “The Lake of Shining Waters” as we drove back to our cottage.