A Door Knock
I had first discovered the old house several years before. Actually, I did not discover it. I discerned it. I was looking for old houses in that neighborhood and discerned that the house “was an old one”. There was another old house across the street from this old house. That house was a smaller 1790’s home on a corner lot before a side street. It was well kept and in fine condition. The first old house was later; 1815-1820’s Federal. It is… for it still be… a small version of the New England Federal mansion style. It was not well kept. It was not in fine condition. The front doorway not only spoke its age to me but… “has become shabby”. Foremost, the original front steps were gone. This was due to the community dictate of side walk space and… the house’s “too close to the road” poise. The sidewalk had been “put in” after the “street was widened”. These left a very short space for “steps down” from a “front door”. The current steps, of “get the job done” odd job carpenter’s style… did get the job done but left a once grand entry hanging above the street. To my eye.
My eye is the foundation tool I use when I hunt for antiques… and old houses. Most I’s I am around don’t use their eyes for either. I discerned the house, the doorway and the steps “instantly”. It all had “my kind of look”; an old house the “has become shabby” that could “be full of antiques”.
The first time I knocked on the door nothing happened. I knocked twice hard. When no one answered, I turned around, looked at the other old house across the street, decided that was “in too good ah shape” and …left.
About six weeks later I stopped by again. I went to the front door and knocked. Promptly an older woman answered the door. I told her who I was and that I was seeking to buy old stuff that she didn’t want anymore. Did she have any old stuff she wanted to sell. “I pay cash.” I said and I held up a large wad of cash.
She looked me over. I am well dressed. I am clean, shaved and well groomed. She looked past me to my truck that did have “some” “old stuff” in the back, looked at the cash wad and then at my face and said “I don’t have anything old I want to sell today”.
“Thank you.” I said. “May I check back with you the next time I come through?”
“Well…” she said with a pause that included her looking me over again “I suppose so for one never knows do they”.
“Thank you” I said again. “I’ll check back”. Then I left. I could feel her watch me; my back, all the way to the truck. I went around the front of the truck and waved at her as I approached my driver’s door. When I drove away her door was shut.
That was my “first visit”. It is a typical, for me, “first visit”
Six weeks later I went back. I generally wait “about” six weeks. I do not do this “exactly”. I knocked on the door twice. The woman answered. I could hear her come to the door, see her look out the side window by the door and then hear her unlock the door and open it. Did she have any old stuff she would like to sell today I asked. I held the cash wad in my hand. The truck was parked behind me in the same place. It did have “some” “old stuff” in its back. She looked me and the et al over as before.
“What... makes you think that I have antiques I want to sell?” she asked me. I …noted the word usage ‘antiques’ RIGHT AWAY. That changed things. Now… I may presume… she knows about antiques, sort of. That she probably likes antiques. That she probably HAS antiques and… that she PROBABLY HAS HEARD about if not DEALT WITH BEFORE… “antiques” “pickers” such as myself… standing at her front door.
“I can tell by the doorway that this is a fine old home. Often the owners of an old home like this have old things and antiques they no longer want and wish to sell.” I said.
She look down from the doorway at me. “Well… I do have old things and some antiques but I am still using them and do not want to sell them.”
“That’s fine. Thank you.” I said. “And may I check back with you again?
“Oh… I suppose so.” she said. “For one never knows do they”.
That was the second visit. She clearly remembered me and had raised the bar of our relationship to be “about antiques”... not “old stuff”.
The third visit came in six weeks. It was at 9:45 on a mid-fall weekday morning. It was a crisp and slightly soggy morning after a “rained in the night”.
“Yes, yes.” She said after I started to repeat my pitch from the same position at her door with the truck behind me and the wad of cash uplifting in my left hand. “Why don’t you come in and have a cup of coffee with me. I can show you an antique and then I’ll be able to tell what you know”. Up the steps and into the home I went. She closed the door behind me. I stared down the front hall. A tall clock was at it’s end, against the wall. A staircase rose to my right. She ushered me into the room to the left. I stood at the room center before a Chippendale bracket base desk (New England, 1780) against the far wall. A small Hepplewhite drop leaf table was to my right with an old (1930’s) stuffed chair on the left and a spindle oak ‘firehouse Windsor’ (1880’s) to the right. That would be my chair. She sat in the stuffed chair. She brought my coffee first. “Black” I had said. Then she brought hers and sat down. I, holding my coffee mug, sat down too. It wasn’t until she sat her mug down on the old surface of the table top that I sat my mug down upon it too. The old surface showed that mug setting had been “going on for years” with no “care about the surface”. I faced the desk. After coffee-tastes-good-on-a-morning-like-this small talk, “Let us get to it”. She said.
“What is it.” She continued as a sentence.
I said what it appeared to be.
I asked if it was “a family desk”.
She nodded. Then she said “What about the hardware.”
I looked across the room. “1930’s replacements” I said.
“Repaired base, replaced lid and refinished.” She said.
I look hard at the base, said nothing and mentally noted ‘possibly’ to myself. Pointed out (as a replacement) the lid did, when scrutinized by my eye, show a darker tone so again I noted ‘possibly’. To myself.
“My grandmother’s” she said.
“Older. Your great, GREAT grandmother’s.” I said
“No. My grandfather bought the wreck up the street and had it restored for my grandmother to use. She used it. My mother used it. And now I use it.”
I looked at her then stood up, stepped to the desk and opened the lid a crack. I could see the space was full of clutter and closed the lid. “That’s how I use it.” She said.
“It is nice.” I said.
She shifted in her chair and then said carefully “Do you think that is the only antique I have? (Pause). Do you think that is the only DESK I have?”
“I wouldn’t know.” I said.
“Most of them do not even know what THAT desk is.” She said. “Evidently. You do. I suspected you would. Do you like my table?” she continued gesturing to the drop leaf with our coffee mugs on it.
“Yes.” I said carefully.
“Most do not. They do not even notice that it’s here. This table WAS my great… great… GREAT grandfather’s; his personal breakfast table. He ate in this room. Right here. And would speak with his callers. Each morning. Before nine.”
I peered at the table with renewed interest.
“It is not for sale.” She said.
“I didn’t expect it to be.” I said.
“Good.” She said. “When you come back I will show you some other things. By that time I’ll be ready for you”.
“Thank you.” I said. After a ‘where do we go from here’ pause.
That was the end of my third visit.