The Codman Place
"I Just Grabbed"
My grandmother and mother “owned it” (the estate contents) and were to the “getting it out”. They knew how to “not show” “interest” so “go-ud” that THEY KNEW to sit it back and… wait. JESUS didn’t I learn that from a table talk like that. The crux of the whole was “the attic” where … “old Henry’s” WIFE’S “family things” “be”… except for “THOSE TRUNKS IN THE BACK OF THE BARN” “BE TOO”… . This …block of merchandise… in that attic space… was denoted as the core of the estate. NOT a friggen NOISE to anyone was uttered about that attic for… A DAMN WEEK. It was understood that old Henry’s wife “was a Bakeman” from “down Brooksville”. That’s way UP the coast by Castine. “Anna” or “Susanna” or “Christina” or well… if your twelve and Maine genealogy is the topic at “dinner”… you’s bored so… I didn’t ever catch it all. ANYWAY… that family was “hers” so that was “their family things” all up in the attic. I did consolidate as to how that family was “fought in the Revolution” but… no one seemed to know much about the “battles” I hallucinated they were “in”. In actual fact I know now that the …big battle they “FOUGHT” was with their Tory neighbors who kept trying to loot their home and mill. But that don’t mean anything to this story except to note that their side “won” so… that a lot of “Bakeman things” remained “together”. And they were up in that attic. And my grandmother & mother knew this.
So what they did is never go near that attic for a week. Never mentioned it. Never said a word about it. It was always “clean out” that, “move this”, “take that today”, “get as much of” in a specified… either “room” “area” or… “floor”. The last was toward the “end”. One would think that an “end” means an “END” and that means “WE ARE DONE” and ..we don’t “do this” “anymore”. It doesn’t. I learned this. It is a false end; a created “end” constructed… by my grandmother and… for years, a tactical directive employed with stunning success by… me.
What it means… is that the “estate” in the “home” of the former owners is “DONE” in THEIR notion of what “DONE” is to THEM. And… they, therefore, “don’t need to come” “anymore”. The wife really never came anymore ever. But Richard did for the first week and a little longer. The little longer was crucial but after that… he was pretty much what he said: “MOVED OUT”. After the first three days of hard hauling out of the barn; principally from the second floor for Richard hadn’t “got his tools” “ready”. AND in fact… there weren’t all that much ON that first floor “except in the back rooms” that my grandmother cared about anyway… : We were “directed” to “work” “in the house”. THEN my grandmother would show up every day first thing in the morning and give us very specific direction of what and WHERE to move that what in… direct collaboration with… Richard. She’d also “come by” after “dinner” each day to “check”. In the main house pretty much “everything” was going to some place. “THAT” goes “WITH THAT” to “THEIR HOUSE” but “TAKE ALL THAT TO THE BARN”. Got it? It went right by me but… since the work was easier and cleaner then the barn I rode right along and … Ant spent a whole lot of time packing “it” on the truck “so it won’t get scratched” kind of stuff. We used these old quilts from the barn that my grandmother said “USE THOSE” to us. Funny how when those got to the barn across the river she wouldn’t let us take ‘em back and we had to “GET SOME MORE. OUT OF THE HOUSE IF YOU HAVE TO”.
Then one morning:
“WHY IS IT… THAT when people move out of a house they will not let anyone SEE what they are moving?” came to my ears as an odd query from a woman with a man in a pick-up truck that stopped so as to block Ant’s truck that we had just finished loading. Ant said again that “It weren’t your business” what he “moved”. The woman persisted. The man in the truck said nothing. The truck blocked our passage. I stood behind Ant, at the front of our truck. Richard was not at the house. We had just locked the house.
“We’ve got to be off” said Ant to the woman. She looked back to the truck again. Ant had intercepted her when she had stepped out the passenger side of her truck. He said “Oh shit” and walked right out to her. Once out of her truck cab she had walked down the little driveway and then walked down even faster when she saw that Ant was going to reach her before she reached our truck. They’d talked briefly and each of them had gestured toward Ant’s truck several times. After a few of these gestures I’d gotten out and just stood between Ant and the truck. I heard Ant say “You can follow me all you want.”. He came back to the truck giving me a rather hard “Get in”.
Then he launched into a paragraph of linked profanities that, while he watched the pick-up follow us out across the river in his side mirror, made it clear to me he knew who the people were, that they were antiques dealers, that he did not like them, that this was trouble for everyone and that… when we got to the barn he sure hoped my grandmother was there because “she’d put her head up her ass”.
My grandmother was there and …according to Ant… that’s what she did. I didn’t see that because I was at the back of the barn with Ant unloading and my grandmother and mother “took ‘em on” way up outside of the front of the barn. Ant stopped up there and honked his horn when we arrived. The other pick-up had pulled right in behind us and when my grandmother saw that she came right up. Ant spoke to her something using no profanities from the truck and she said she’d “take care of it” and to “go unload”. My grandmother talked for a little while outside the barn with the woman who’d gotten out of her truck when we stopped and tried to walk down into the barn. She never made it. My grandmother held her off and my mother stood just back enough to block her again if she flanked my grandmother. “Don’t she TWIST!” is what Ant said to me while we worked. I didn’t see any twisting but that was probably because I was unloading while Ant spent most of his time watching. When the lady left, Ant went right up and talked with both my mother and grandmother for a little bit. When he came back I was all un-loaded except for the big stuff. We unloaded that and drove back for another load. Ant said the lady “won’t be back” and how she’d “met her match” with my grandmother. We stopped at the “gas & go” on the way back and not only did Ant buy me an ice cream bar but he even told fat Evelyn all about my grandmother and what he called “That fuck’en bitch”. My vocabulary was getting bigger everyday I worked with Ant.
Back at the house we’d come to a point where I was suppose to “work with Richard” in the shrine. But since he hadn’t shown up like he was suppose to, Ant had said we’d “strip the basement” and that’s what we’d been doing. I knew now how we took “everything” so we’d already taken three truck loads out there through a wooden doorway that lead down into it from the outside. Throughout the taking everything I had my eye on that helmet. Ant saw this and, as the space became “empty” he said to me quietly that “we’d better not” take “that”. In fact he actually said we’d better not even touch it. So we didn’t and after the fourth load that was all that was left down there. It hung there, on it’s nail, from the ceiling, at the base of the stairs. I didn’t like leaving that there but what could I do.
The next morning my grandmother came down to the house and looked it all over as usual. Ant went around with her but they made me “take everything” out of this little shed by the barn and put it into the truck. That pretty much filled the truck. Then my grandmother said a “Well” and then that I “should stay here” for when “Richard showed up” and Ant to take that truck load to the barn and come back. We, I then gathered, were supposed to meet Richard this morning. But he didn’t show up.
While Ant was gone we went upstairs and “walked through”. While we did this my grandmother would find little things still and make me “Put that in the car.” so I was running up and down and in and out the whole time. When I came back upstairs for the “five hundredth time” my grandmother weren’t there but… the attic door was open. So up I went. I knew for sure she hadn’t even been up here since that first day. When I came up she didn’t say anything or touch anything and just walked up and down the isle peering in at the dark boxes and trunks. Then we both heard a truck and, even though I could tell it was Ant’s truck, my grandmother said “Maybe this is Richard”.
It wasn’t but we went all the way down and outside before Ant was turned around. Ant said “HE AIN’T HERE YET?” and my grandmother affirmed that. In hindsight its clear this absents phased neither of ‘em but at the time I thought they both might get… well, “mad”. They didn’t. My grandmother said to Ant that we’d “just been in the attic” and she “guess” we “should do that today”: “Get it all out. As fast as you can.” Ant seemed to understand that. He also seemed to understand that her telling him to “take it all” to the “regular” barn; the second barn, was nothing unusual although I’d “never done that” “this way”. She also said to “be ready” “to move it from there”. “To where?” is what I asked myself but I didn’t dare say anything out loud.
From there on the rest of the day was “BOOM”. That day was sort of cool and cloudy but I still remember the sweat we got going up and down those stairs. And that wasn’t the end. Ant didn’t ever say anything but I noticed that all that day we seemed to “go at it” at a faster clip then usual. It started out with one load being normal. Then, with the second load, we seemed a little faster. By dinner time, my mother had these sandwiches at the barn and they talked about “working right through” “today” which we did. Ant never said a word to complain and we still did get the “ice tea” in the afternoon but we didn’t talk with Evelyn hardly at all.
We started at the top of the stairs and went down one side to one end of the attic, then back up the whole other side and then finished up from the other side of the stair top. This last section was eased off by us “taking something” from it to “fill out” a load on each trip. I was usually sent back up to “just get anything” “about that big” “you can carry” and, well, I “just grabbed”.
 : Unbelievable this then but today it is my most regular habit. Pieces of wood, metal and glass whatever’s; bits & parts, “slivers”, “that is that”, “iota”, “any paper” and the always proud “DIDN’T EVEN SEE THAT” “discovery” of something actually whole and “good”. She took every damn thing there was and was repeatedly searching out more and more… AND MORE. NOT a nook, cranny, beam top, dark spot, hole, crack, “back in under the shelf”, “Here: shine the flashlight in there”, “check between the (blank)”, “look behind and up-under” a (blank), “see if anything is just below” the (blank)” or “go get a hammer and pull that out” actually nailed down “something”… escaped. And I learned to do this too. And you should TOO.