Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
They were just a young married couple, very much in love, with their first baby on the way. They had just moved into a rented unit. New migrants to Australia, they were half a world away from home, and now they were scouring furniture shops because the unit was bare.
No one had told them the long Christmas-New Year summer season was the worst time to look for a job, but their spirits were still high because the joy of birth was only a few weeks away. They did not have a car, so they walked miles in the heat. They had walked to look for a place to rent, they had walked to look for a job for the father-to-be, they had walked to look at second-hand car yards.
Today they were walking along a street that housed several furniture warehouses. They picked out some simple furniture and asked for it to be delivered. Nothing ostentatious. Just sensible stuff that they could replace later, when they got on their feet. For they were utterly confident that they would get on their feet. It was just a question of time.
They saw a Salvation Army furniture store and walked in, purely on a whim. The manager showed them a beautiful little handmade wooden table with curved legs perfect for a living room. He told the young couple there was a story behind the table. It had been made by inmates at Pentridge Prison as a farewell present for the long-serving jail chaplain who was being transferred elsewhere.
Now the priest was old and frail and was going into a retirement home, so he wanted the table sold to a good family.``It's not a perfect table,'' the manager said. ``There are a few flaws. But it was crafted with love and respect for a man of God.''
The young couple were enchanted by the story. But they didn't know if the lacquered table would match the furniture they had ordered. About a week later, the husband was in the area and found himself drawn back to look at the table. It was still there. He bought it, thinking they would give it away in a few weeks to someone else who would appreciate the deep significance of its origin.
That was twenty years ago. They've had three kids and they still have the table.
It's had pride of place in every home we've owned. It still sits in our family room. We'll never give it away.