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Grandma's House

Time 0:02:42


A few years ago, I had the chance to go to Port Hope for a few days on my own. The car headed straight for Brown Street. I parked in front of Grandma’s house. I couldn’t believe it. There was a for sale sign in front of the ginkgo tree that I remembered from 1947. I made an appointment and within an hour, I was touring my own dear grandma’s kitchen where she pulled wonderous things out of the oven of the huge old wood stove. Here was the clawfoot tub upstairs where we loved the bright orange lifebuoy soap.

Grandma’s house was warm and welcoming. She was too. And I was shocked when I was six and she suddenly died. A peculiar blank enveloped us for years.

Fast forward to 1987. By chance, my husband took a job in England. He was allowed to work there because of my connection to Grandma. Because she was born in England, my family got to live there and absorb English culture. I felt English. When I decided to go to Cornwall to find Grandma’s birthplace, again, the car almost took me there. A big, dark stone house high on green rolling moorland, South of Launceston, Cornwall.

They left when she was one year old. Farmworkers, with six or seven children heading to a better life in Ontario. That was 1877. Both parents died young. She was in charge before she was 20. As a result of her family’s decision to take risk and move to Canada, I got to know her, be named after her, and to be loved by her. Her parents had none of the help that newcomers to Canada do now. She made a good life from hard hard work. She loved white lilacs and blackcurrant jam and dogs. I do too.

Next Monday, when I’m helping newcomers from all over the world as they struggle with English, I’ll think of her and now, with her in my heart in a new way, I hope to be for my grandsons what she was to me.

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