Things

We spend the first half of our lives collecting them and the other half giving them away...

As such, I’ve inherited a number of bits and pieces from my grandmother’s house. They’re scattered about my apartment; artifacts from another time. Once shiny and new, these small treasures have transcended from one generation to another only to sit on a shelf.  

It isn’t just about the ownership of the things, but also where they come from, what they mean or signify, and how they inspire over time. 

Grandma Mary self identifies as a “tough old bird”. She’s 76-years-old, a retired ginseng farmer, a survivor of both cancer and domestic abuse, a bowler, a loyal friend and one of the most influential and significant women in my life. She is anti-ego, thoughtful, hard-working, generous and even at 76, wise beyond her years. She’s my mum’s mum. I sat down with Grandma Mary, showed her the images you see on the page here, and asked her to tell me a little bit about each one. 


HAWK: When Great Grandma passed away, you asked me if I wanted anything from her house. I reflected on a time when I used to play in the sunroom at the back of the house. There was a box of toys, and when us kids would come over it was the first place we’d explore. In that box, there was a sort of puzzle – a set of 12 plastic cubes, each with a piece of six fairy tale scenes on them. What’s the deal? 

MARY: Oh kid, that puzzle was made in Germany...I had travelled to Munich for a wedding and brought it back to Canada sometime in the late 1980’s. You would’ve really liked it there – I remember a four-lane highway for bikes and pedestrians. 

HAWK: When I visited your house in 2012, I returned home with a number of doorknobs. When I hold it, I think about the number of times those knobs have been turned over the years; how many hands do you think they’ve seen?

MARY: Well, those doorknobs are original with the house and the house was built in 1938.

HAWK: When you finally sold the house and prepared to move out west, you gave me a carving of a small blue bird. Where did that come from?

MARY: Oh the lady made that, a local woman who sold her goods at the artisan fair in Tillsonburg. I must have bought that sometime around 1975.

HAWK: Another thing I ended up with was this painting of a forest scene; the colouring of the leaves sets the scene sometime in Autumn. There’s a grey sky, possibly a fog, and a variety of trees painted around a stream. The brass plaque on the front of the painting reads “Vic Gibbons”. Who is this artist and what drew you to the piece?

MARY: This painting was done by a local man, a man from Simcoe. We purchased the painting after losing a couple of birch trees; we used to have two big white trees in the front yard but eventually had to cut them down. A branch fell off once on to the highway and Mem said they had to go so we don’t get sued. So we got the painting to commemorate the trees, maybe in 1990.

HAWK: I spent a couple of nights at your house on my way home to Calgary from a cross-Canada drive a few years ago. I found this chair sitting alone in the upper floor of the house and asked to take it home. I brought it back to Calgary in pieces and and since then, it’s become my favourite seat in the house. When did this chair come into your life?

MARY: That chair was purchased sometime in the 1950’s, shortly after your Uncle Butch was born. I would’ve been about 10 or 11 years-old then. There was a furniture store in Delhi that people would buy their furniture from, and this chair was made by a family by the name of Kroehler out of Stratford. I think they were Germans. They made an awful lot of furniture.

HAWK: The battery in this clock is almost always dead. Mom has one just like it and they both came from you. Can you tell me more about it? 

MARY: The clock comes from Courtland kid, from that candle shop run by a woman named Karen Peacock. She went to school with your mom and dad.

HAWK: After thinking of these things, how has their meaning changed over time? Are they more significant now that they’ve withstood the test of memory? Now that they’ve survived generations of garage sales, moves, and renovations? Now that there’s a story?

MARY: The clock comes from Courtland kid, from that candle shop run by a woman named Karen Peacock. She went to school with your mom and dad.

HAWK: After thinking of these things, how has their meaning changed over time? Are they more significant now that they’ve withstood the test of memory? Now that they’ve survived generations of garage sales, moves, and renovations? Now that there’s a story?

MARY: They mean the same thing. That woman still carved that blue bird and she carved it out of wood. Whether it’s here or there - that don’t matter. 

HAWK: As an older adult, what are your thoughts of the accumulation of stuff? Do you think consumerism can be meaningful or is it something we do for other reasons? 

MARY: I think its a matter of circumstance - say at one point in your life you need a five-bedroom house, and then at another time in your life you need a three-bedroom house. Our needs change overtime.

HAWK: How have you seen consumerism change over your lifetime?

MARY: Kid, nowadays we have more - but it costs more. 

HAWK: Your stories all tie into a local context; bits and pieces purchased from local artisans, furniture makers, homebuilders…Since many of these pieces were purchased, mass globalization has changed they way we make and distribute many of our goods. Do you think there’s still a way to support local craftspeople, even in a big modern city? Do you think that’s important? Do you think people care?

MARY: Sure I think people care. Passing things down is one way to remember and think of the people who made the bird carving or painted the picture. And not only that, but they can be a nice keep-sake from a time or a friend - and friends are the real treasure.

HAWK: When Great Grandma passed away, you asked me if I wanted anything from her house. I reflected on a time when I used to play in the sunroom at the back of the house. There was a box of toys, and when us kids would come over it was the first place we’d explore. In that box, there was a sort of puzzle – a set of 12 plastic cubes, each with a piece of six fairy tale scenes on them. What’s the deal? 

MARY: Oh kid, that puzzle was made in Germany...I had travelled to Munich for a wedding and brought it back to Canada sometime in the late 1980’s. You would’ve really liked it there – I remember a four-lane highway for bikes and pedestrians. 

HAWK: When I visited your house in 2012, I returned home with a number of doorknobs. When I hold it, I think about the number of times those knobs have been turned over the years; how many hands do you think they’ve seen?

MARY: Well, those doorknobs are original with the house and the house was built in 1938.

HAWK: When you finally sold the house and prepared to move out west, you gave me a carving of a small blue bird. Where did that come from?

MARY: Oh the lady made that, a local woman who sold her goods at the artisan fair in Tillsonburg. I must have bought that sometime around 1975.

  Above : Painting by Vic Gibbons, of Simcoe.

Above: Painting by Vic Gibbons, of Simcoe.

HAWK:  Another thing I ended up with was this painting of a forest scene; the colouring of the leaves sets the scene sometime in Autumn. There’s a grey sky, possibly a fog, and a variety of trees painted around a stream. The brass plaque on the front of the painting reads “Vic Gibbons”. Who is this artist and what drew you to the piece?

MARY: This painting was done by a local man, a man from Simcoe. We purchased the painting after losing a couple of birch trees; we used to have two big white trees in the front yard but eventually had to cut them down. A branch fell off once on to the highway and Mem said they had to go so we don’t get sued. So we got the painting to commemorate the trees, maybe in 1990.

HAWK: I spent a couple of nights at your house on my way home to Calgary from a cross-Canada drive a few years ago. I found this chair sitting alone in the upper floor of the house and asked to take it home. I brought it back to Calgary in pieces and and since then, it’s become my favourite seat in the house. When did this chair come into your life?

MARY: That chair was purchased sometime in the 1950’s, shortly after your Uncle Butch was born. I would’ve been about 10 or 11 years-old then. There was a furniture store in Delhi that people would buy their furniture from, and this chair was made by a family by the name of Kroehler out of Stratford. I think they were Germans. They made an awful lot of furniture.

HAWK: The battery in this clock is almost always dead. Mom has one just like it and they both came from you. Can you tell me more about it? 

MARY: The clock comes from Courtland kid, from that candle shop run by a woman named Karen Peacock. She went to school with your Mom and Dad.

HAWK: After thinking of these things, how has their meaning changed over time? Are they more significant now that they’ve withstood the test of memory? Now that they’ve survived generations of garage sales, moves, and renovations? Now that there’s a story?

MARY: They mean the same thing. That woman still carved that blue bird and she carved it out of wood. Whether it’s here or there - that don’t matter.

HAWK: As an older adult, what are your thoughts of the accumulation of stuff? Do you think consumerism can be meaningful or is it something we do for other reasons? 

MARY: I think its a matter of circumstance - say at one point in your life you need a five-bedroom house, and then at another time in your life you need a three-bedroom house. Our needs change overtime.

HAWK: How have you seen consumerism change over your lifetime?

MARY: Kid, nowadays we have more - but it costs more. Nothing's changed, really.

HAWK: Your stories all tie into a local context; bits and pieces purchased from local artisans, furniture makers, homebuilders…Since many of these pieces were purchased, mass globalization has changed they way we make and distribute many of our goods. Do you think there’s still a way to support local craftspeople, even in a big modern city? Do you think that’s important? Do you think people care?

MARY: Sure I think people care. Passing things down is one way to remember and think of the people who made the bird carving or painted the picture. And not only that, but they can be a nice keep-sake from a time or a friend - and friends are the real treasure.