"Mama, that's the chair from BG's house."
It's 7.30 in the morning when I'm jolted out my new-day daze and transplanted into the past. I look at the little white wicker chair in our den. It used to sit in front of a stone fireplace in my grandmother's house, near her rocking chair.
She would rotate her teddy bear collection every week, so her favourites all got a chance to sit on the throne for a spell. It never seemed odd to me as a child; we just knew that every year we got BG a teddy bear calendar for Christmas.
It wasn't until I grew up and out of my own stuffed animal attachments that I wondered at her enduring fascination. Why did she keep so many around the house? They seemed to live in every room in some form—on shelves in her bedroom, or scattered around the living room.
Maybe it had something to do with loss, and trying to fill the hole of grief. My grandmother knew what it was to lose her mother at the age of nine.
When we visited her a couple of years ago, she admitted that she'd never had any teddy bears growing up. Even though she went on to get married and have children, these inanimate objects continued to fill a mysterious space in her heart. They were such a comfort to her, especially when my grandfather died and she wandered the halls of her beloved home alone.
I remember when she died last year, it was so hard to part with any of them. It felt like we were getting rid of pieces of her heart. So my sister and I, sentimental souls that we are, took plastic bags of them home, just to keep them from being thrown out in the trash.
Today I see that my daughter has placed one of her own teddy bears in the wicker chair at some point. For the longest time it's simply been another piece of storage, with various reusable bags sitting on it.
It looks better occupied, I decide, with a flash of guilt.
I'm startled at what my three year old remembers. She only met her great-grandmother a handful of times. They were both always slightly wary with each other, neither of them quick to warm up to new people.
But it's important to me to keep my grandmother's memory alive, to reference her in conversation, to tell stories and hang pictures that keep her with us in spirit.
This afternoon my husband and I were in her old neighbourhood in Toronto after we visited our accountant. Just like the last time we found ourselves there, I couldn't resist the temptation to drive by and say hi. To her, to her house, to the past. Technically it's no longer ours, those bricks and stain-glass windows and stone fireplaces, but it still feels like hers.
So when I saw the For Lease sign still planted on the lawn, I got out of the car while my husband scrolled on his phone. He kept the engine running as I wandered up the path and steps to the front door. I looked at the Canadian flag tangled up and twisted from the wind, and I wished I could fix it. My grandmother would have had a ladder out there at first glance. Then I touched the Eaton's security sticker on the screen door and closed my eyes. It's the closest I get to her these days.