W. Kelly, Toronto

This table and chair belonged to my grandmother. She got it from her father who brought her and her two brothers to Canada just after the First World War. Her mother had died in childbirth. She showed me her father’s war medals when I was a boy. He’d fought in different wars in different parts of the world and left Scotland as a widower at about the age I am now. They didn’t have anything but they got land, probably through a homesteading scheme, in Terra Cotta. My grandmother told me her father dug a hole in the red ground and covered it with tar paper and they lived in that hole for a year while he built a house overtop of them. Imagine being a single dad, working on farms (for farmers who didn’t always pay) and then going home at the end of the day (to your hole) to keep working on building your kids a house. This table was the first piece of furniture they got for their house. The table and chair and one other memory of that house – a sunny day when I helped my grandmother clear lilac branches from the edge of the garden where it met a crop field – are all that remain of that home.

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