The Codman Place
"ON TO THE ATTIC"
Up in the kitchen, my grandmother had not been idle. The whole “walk through” process had been accompanied by a petit yet consistent action on her part. She had, without moving around a whole lot, been carefully making little tiny pencil marks on different spots of a tiny little card of white paper she carried with her. I might as well spill the beans on this right here for… IF you have ever wondered how someone like me can go strolling through a home with a barn and come out the other side with, after a very few minutes of figuring… a state exactly “how much” “I WILL PAY” “FOR ALL OF IT” “RIGHT NOW”… this little tiny iota of paper be the magical secret.
That paper means nothing to anyone if it is… “lost” or “looked at”. All an eye sees is tiny little pencil dotting here and there about the little slip. But them dumb dots mean money. The little slip has delegated regions on it to designate rooms and spaces (“The Barn”) and, within that designated, be the further extended designated “how much” generally touched out in “hundred”, “fifty”, “twenty” and even the “tens” and “fives”. “Huh.” and so clear is that coding-out that in the hands of the creator it become THE PRIMARY reference for “how much” “for that” THROUGHOUT the ENTIRE “estate purchase”. What I am stating is the YES I CAN buy the entire contents of a whole Federal home and it attached buildings AND the barn by poking at an index card with a pencil and DON’T you DARE back-up about it for I’s ah taught plenty of ‘em how to do it and they DO do it and they DO say “HOW THAT WORKS!” and the thank me too… so I don’t got to listen to the poop from you about it because…
I learned this from my grandmother in …places just like this one here… and she did it like you close your car door so I saw it over and over and then did the big ole break myself and have dotted them slips of paper my whole life without a single comment from... you.
So the pencil was hitting the paper and my mother by no solicitation needed was doing the old “this one has a cracked handle”, “it’s signed Kellogg”, “there are TWO of them; a pair” and the always helpful “I think that there are more quilts in the bottom drawers too” kind of…well… it was hard for someone to stop those two once they started to go through “your stuff” so, along with an absolutely astonishingly well maintained superficial and trite to all subjects banter kept up… that would ALONE numb a hake… the maelstrom passed from room to room, space to space… and object to object. With lighting speed.
When I came back up from the basement and mumbled off the “dutifully I report” of “two cases of six shelves of fruit jars” and “barrels behind a small room of boxes with a cupboard and that’s full too” eloquent discourse that divide land and sea of the whole dark, dank basement into a …couple of pencil dots… WE were already to “go upstairs. “Richard. Can we?” said my grandmother.
If there was going to be a heroic moment within this estate transaction, this was it. The words floated through the air of a suddenly quiet kitchen but that silent moment ended within that moment when… Richard said it was “OK ‘suppose anyway. To look”. The door from the basement stairs was at one end of the kitchen while a counter positioned staircase up to the second floor was entered, through a matching door at the other end of the kitchen. Up we all went… bump, bump, bump and bump up the enclosed stairs.
The rooms on the second floor formed a matching U shape around the front door (“formal”) staircase at the front of the building; the same as the downstairs. Coming in from the rear, we all very easily denoted that the Parson Job Shrine had had difficulty remaining intact over the years. Two bedrooms had been… long ago… excised to house the children. This included the bathroom. This left the larger room above the kitchen and the front room at the front left corner “untouched”. The room above the kitchen did not survive the untouched designation for it was a throughway for both of the children AND …the entry to the …attic. It was quite evident to anyone including me that it was … full of old stuff …piled with … kid stuff, their stuff, more stuff, stuff-stuff and a whole lot of other stuff. It was the old stuff that I saw my mother poking into while my grandmother said “My my” to the two principal’s vague “We are going to be cleaning this out” defensive program that …proved that…even THEY knew that they …ain’t done anything in this space but “off load” for the past ten years.
The Children’s rooms where …actually pretty standard to “estate contents” specimens. They were … not too full… of the vestiges and tailings of the… emerging personalities of the former occupants who had now abandoned them but… “They will probably want to take a lot of their things”. These “things” were… very precisely clarified by my grandmother to specifically not include the “furniture” that was… very evident to be… original to the rooms and this was confirmed with a “They would have already taken that old stuff if they wanted it I suppose”. A few penciled dots and it was back to the big room above the kitchen and more of my mother’s poking merged with a “help me lift that” to me. Richard had offered no resistance or …assistance. One room remained to be “seen”.
“In the front room” came as part of a testing sentence from my grandmother and, oddly, Richard said nothing but lead the way to a door in the abutting bedroom that, although locked, had the key in the door. He unlocked it, opened the door inward and we entered a… dim room that although extremely neat and sparsely furnished, was also openly evident to …have not been entered in the “God knows how long” time frame.
It was also “the shrine” or… what was left of it. It was Parson Job’s bedroom by fact. His personal life and interests to the time of his departure to “the war” inclusive of the set of 1938-1942 wall calendars, was suspended in their place… throughout the dim …space. The original arrangement of the furniture lay… beneath and behind… more …mostly trunks… of his things that, evidently had (and never, ever, verbally denoted to have ever had) been moved into the room as the rest of Parson’s territory was taken over by… outside forces. A time capsule in a rather compressed and encapsulated form was before us all. The shadows of light that did creep past the… once by a female’s hand… lace type curtains (ca. 1920’s)… shown only upon sun browned to bleached brown to bleached to a yellow dark green onward to… dark browns, dark greens… on to blacks and even… dark blues that formed the block like shapes of “these are old” neatly arranged in the room. My grandmother was not making penciled dots and my mother was not touching anything. Richard was not speaking and his wife was standing just outside the door.
I, like the infatuated dumb ass that I still am to this day, had already crossed the room and was staring at a military uniform that hung against the far wall in the dark spot between two windows. This, as everyone took notice of my singular action… broke an ice that had formed without me noticing it. My grandmother took an option of wording risk and filled in the silence for Richard by stating to my back that the uniform was “Parson’s” but neutralized that defiantly by adding… that she “could remember when he wore it in the parade”. That worked. Not that anyone said anything but I did turn around while blushing up at “being caught” to see Richard cast an affirmative look to my grandmother and shift his weight. She reciprocated by purging the situation of the phobic goblins by venturing that “I am sure Richard, that you want to keep as much of this as you can so why don’t we just wait on this room until after you have decided what you want to do. She turned her head to say to… the back of my head that had …gone back to deducting if the uniform belong to a general or not “Why don’t you help Richard move these things.”
“Give me a hand? He COULD give me a hand” came from Richard. I turned toward him on that utterance but couldn’t quite see his face for the door back lighted him and the large, sagging, felt red, white and blue “V” banner tacked to the wall not only equalized this contrast on his other side but, ah… absorbed my attention. Therefore, I accepted my lot without comment for, well… I couldn’t loose the “chance” to “touch that stuff”.
A shrine is a shrine… but it ain’t worth a dime… to an antiquarian if… it don’t have “good stuff” “in it”. The shrine, to my grandmother, was a “no problem”. IF Parson Job had… moved the 18th Century two piece maple “secretary” with that bubbled glass panes and raised paneled top…up the stairs and …: Well, it would probably have been in better condition; had all the old (and original) “hardware” (handles) on the drawers, not have had the chunk of molding knocked off and preserved in the bottom drawer and… been a …dangerously near to an “impossible” “thing” “to buy” …instead of being …totally oblivious to the owners… that “it” could be “anything” in their eyes with which… my grandmother … “clean as a whistle”… that one… right “out of there”; the DOWN STAIR’S front room. A mixed blessing therefore and “I’ll take it”. The shrine was… without comment… declared an “over” by my grandmother meaning… she don’t care WHAT they keep or sell in that room and …ON TO THE ATTIC.
 How do I “appraise” a …room full of books? Look at the spine ends; that conveys the general quality (and type) of tome in the room. Count the books on one shelf (to your self, please). Count the number of shelves. Multiply the two to get the number of books. Look at the spine ends again (to access in a MOST GENERAL WAY the “content” and “subjects” of the “old books”) and configure how much you’d LIKE to pay per book. Multiply that number by the number of books. That give you the “I WILL PAY THIS MUCH” number …without… ever… touching a book. This price may be …fluctuated… to accommodate the “what I have to pay” per book “to get’em”… even over the telephone at an airport in another state IF it is necessary.