The Codman Place
"That Micro Minute Was Over"
The party of two in the …Codman Place… lived together as husband and wife for “since the war” of… twenty years. They were in their early forties, had two grown children who had “left home” to “works in the mill” and “married the *** boy”. This last had also appended “going to have a baby” within the past month. They had lived in this building that the husband had inherited from his father (“old Henry”), with his brother, “before the war”. The death of the wife’s mother allowed the opportunity for the couple to “move” “into” the mother’s home. This home was a bigger, prettier, in a better neighborhood, total paid for and ready to go including fully furnished… home… “for free” that… by conjecture, would be “impossible” for “any woman” to “resist”. In fact it would be hard for a man to resist for… HE got a whole lot of “new space” for “his stuff” AND that space came with a CAR too.
Therefore… after the first half hour of “How DOES she feel?” kind of chatter… a business of business around that kitchen table set in that… began with “We don’t know” “We have been talking about that” “There are things we want but most of it” “We have had several people say something to us” “We are still trying to decide” and “So much of it is just Robert’s (the husband) family’s things”. There, at this moment, unfolded, LITERALLY, money and the topics of money. My grandmother had this perfectly nasty way of taking out whole wads of money from her purse without… without… ANY reason to do so… in front of people in situations like this and, well… just sort of having it out. It had a near magical effect on directing the course of the conversation to “stay on topic” and, usually, drove that conversation deeper and deeper into the topic… of “buying everything”. Down this commercial passage we all went.
This route selection was greatly supported by a … previously private but now public… decision by the woman to “move” “now” into her mother’s house; a something the husband did not really have a problem with. “We are staying there tonight (to never sleep in this old place again)” was stated. Once that roadway was defined the whole topic quickly moved onto “what” and “how much”. Using giant steps so familiar to her, my grandmother walked this couple along this… trail of cash in hand crumbs… on the “we will buy everything now” path by - in actual fact – giant steps of… whole sections of the home. “THE BARN” was cavalierly divided into “the two floors” and the husband’s “tools. He wants those”. The back roomS behind the kitchen were at first singled out but then added to “the basement”. The kitchen was left a single whole to be delegated “later once your settled”. My grandmother knew full well that aside from a single favorite towel and such… it would be left “untouched”. The actual living quarters of the couple presented a problem. This problem was not that they didn’t want to “sell” the “things” in this living quarters. THIS they DID want to do for almost absolutely all of it “was here” when they “moved in” and represented to this couple “nothing” “good” “except the china cabinet; Robert’s mother’s, we want that don’t we Robert”. Robert acknowledged that the cabinet was in the house, was his mother’s and “I guess” for it’s retention was shrewdly qualified by him as “Doesn’t your mother’s have one too? What do you want two for?”. The wife briskly rebutted that she wanted to “keep my dishes in it” and that could have set off a husband & wife glower-at-each-other but my grandmother said “Oh that’s just fine”. This whole; the arbitration of all of the material goods in the living quarters, was not the “presented a problem”.
The problem was that there was a… what we called and still call… “a shrine” in the home. “A shrine” is a location in the home that is set aside for a special purpose. Usually the space is not used very much but absolutely preserved “untouched” due to it’s consecrated designation. They are not unusual in a home. The LEAST obtrusive and most frequently encountered is the “living room” that is… never used… ever… except when, like, someone dies or… briefly before and after “Thanksgiving dinner”. This light breeze of sacrosanct territory spirals up and away with tornado wind violence to much more severe elevations of scared spacing. Over the years I have… “done all kinds”… and dutifully report that the number one type is “the room” that “*** died in” that is “left exactly the way *** left it” (and then they …start to cry) usually with the door closed all the time. In this home; The Codman Place, this hallowed interior spatial declaration took on an advanced scale. I had no idea but… my grandmother knew “all about it”.
“What about Parson Job’s?” my grandmother questioned Richard directly. I had no idea what that was about but I found out. I, at age twelve, was not an expert on American Federal style architecture nor particularly observant of living spaces; either the inside or the outside of them. Today this is another matter for I can spot a Colonial home even if it’s been entirely enclosed within six generation of “modern additions”. But then… I was “numb’er than a hake” on the subject. It did not take me too long to get the gist of the issue.
When we came to the front door… on the steps bordering the side street… I had failed to observe that there were two doors; one in the center of the building and one to the left. We had gone in the latter and this door DID appear to be the “only one used”. And that it was. What the actual state of affairs was… was that the original Federal style home, ca. 1790, had been divided “before the war”; ca. 1938, into two… well…; two “apartments”… sort of. We had come into the bottom or “Richard’s” section of the house. This was accessed through a former window that had been made into the now only active front door on the home. It lead around the first floor of the home with one entering the living room, moving to the back to a dining room then to the right to a kitchen on to a modestly large room that was a bathroom. Through that last one passed out the other end into the bedroom of the couple. At the moment of the “Parson Job” query, I had no idea that this bedroom existed.
Anyway, and to any… trained eye… this left the original front door and the whole upstairs unaccounted for. “Parson Job” accounted for it. “He” was Richard Elijah Codman’s older brother. He was dead. The upstairs was “his” “half” of the house, so divided by the brothers at the time they inherited it from “old Henry”. Each brother had a “place” with their own entrance and… that was that.
When the war began, the brothers, who were “just twenty” meaning Parson was twenty and Richard was eighteen, “joined up”. They were alone in the world yet set & stable with their jobs and their… own home, divided. Foot free and fancy loose… off they went with many more men. Before long they were, together, in a “they drove tanks” armored division that was …sent to “the Pacific” “to fight”. They fought. One day, on an obscure “landing” upon and obscure Pacific island, Parson’s tank “took a direct hit” moments after it cleared the beachhead. Richard, in his tank “saw it he didn’t have a chance” and… that was the end of the two brothers.
Richard took the death hard and, according to my grandmother, was “never the same” meaning a whole psycho bag of stuff today but back then, in small rural Maine village, this was cured by the three words “never the same” added to the other three words “after the war”. Richard “came home” and continued his life by marrying his childhood sweetheart and raising a family… and all… . This last was that… he didn’t ever do a whole lot of anything and, evidently became a shell of his former self “and all” and… showed no ambition, no care or no cause. NOT that he was a negative citizen in anyway… its just that what had happened had changed him and everyone knew it and it was only a “talk about” when he weren’t around. Except for my grandmother.
My grandmother… had “lost a son” “in the war”. The son was a friend of both Richard and Parson; they “grew up together”. He had actually been killed before Parson was. This seemingly small point carried a lot of weight for not only did this tie my grandmother to Richard by similar local adverse experience but… Richard knew… that Parson knew that… her son “had died” …so… a small thread of shared human experience from the past… crossed canyons of time and silence that… “no one knew about”.
This allowed my grandmother the right to make a direct assault on Richard’s beachhead with her tank in an …she knew exactly what she was doing… effort to capture Richard’s most hallowed ground; “Parson’s rooms”. Her tank rolled on to the beach and Richard opened up with light machine gun fire in the form of “HAD NOT DECIDED WHAT TO DO ABOUT THAT”. My grandmother turned her tank to the side and set off down the beach at a rapid rate to, it proved, flank that opposition by… “WHY DON’T WE START IN THE BARN.”
And we did. We did the “walk through”. This is a theatrical presentation by … skilled (?) dealers to… create a sense of “we all understand what we are doing” order out of the …vast wilderness… of “the stuff”, of the people who “own the stuff” and of the them having… no idea… about any of it or how it is going to be “sold” “by them”. UP in the barn, pretty darn quick-quick, “WE” “went”. Boxes, barrels and buggies scattered ah mid… furniture, frames and …old architectural features… lead to pottery, paintings and …old prints of Jesus AND “PORTLAND” (Maine). This last I recall as if it was TODAY but… I said nothing at the time and never got close to it for… my grandmother… scooted that masterpiece way out of my reach so early on in the “estate” that… it were not but till the early 1980’s that I …got to lay my hands on it.
Before we could know what was to be done we were back in the house again and “doing” those two “back rooms” forming “the L” off the rear of the home and… I was “GO DOWN IN THE BASEMENT AND TELL ME” with Richard coming along and each of us holding a flashlight. This was the first time we were alone together. I, it was understood by training, was to “fan out” and scan the whole space in considerable detail so as to be able to accurately report “how full” it “is” and “with what”. This last was beyond my technical antiquarian strengths for I “didn’t know” a whole lot of “what it is” but THAT was calculatingly accommodated by my grandmother for… what did she care “what” was down there as long as she knew “how MUCH” was for… “We can sell it”.
As I said… Richard and I were alone. I shined my light around and… he shined his. I run off to the far corners shining my light in them. He shined his light on me. I’d come back and go out the other way. He didn’t try to stop me and I, as taught, did this all without stopping. Of course, then, as things were going along TOO slick and smooth… I DID “seen something” I understood but didn’t stop but… at the end couldn’t resist so DID stop and… shined my flashlight up on a … World War II helmet hanging from the ceiling… just off the bottom of the stairs… about three feet from Richard. He saw me. I shined my light and his light followed it. It was quiet a moment. Then his hand went up and reached the helmet down. “That was mine” he said and he handed it to me. “I wore that in the war.” He said. I probably said something that was some sort of 1960’s kid kind of word to mean “cool” like “jeeze” and rolled it around on my hand and… well… it went right up on to my head before anyone could stop anything and… Richard actually laughed cause it was what we both called “too big”. And then he put it on his head and it was the… “still fits”. And then we hung it back up and went the back up to the kitchen and… that micro minute was over.
 : One must understand the “IT WORKS!” premise that if one does not attract attention to a room full of old stuff as being a …room full of old stuff… that is “good”, it will often times be sold right along with the whole as being “nothing”. My grandmother’s perpetual agility of NOT attracting attention to an ENTIRE SPACE FULL of “good stuff” is something I learned and still practice. Here, by classic example AND by sending a kid “to see”, she reduces the contents of a well known to be bountiful space in an old home (“THE BASEMENT”) to being a “nothing” unless, of course, the owners start to expansively elaborate as to how “the old pewter cupboard is down there” which… it often is. Usually they don’t and go right along figuring “anything” “down there” is “no good” and “you can have if you want.” for otherwise THEY will “have to clean it out”. A good picker… NEVER… treats a “loaded” space as if it is “anything”. THIS WORKS VERY WELL.