We find ourselves returning to the most current moments of my grandmother’s craft with the summer people and their summer places. Mr. Simon has been introduced, parlayed, whiskeyed, ‘sold to’ and “customered”. This last was a halfway designation by my grandmother. To her, a ‘customer’ could be fine… and… could be a nuisance. “FINE” for the money but a nuisance …requiring her attention and service. Money smoothed down nuisance. A ‘nuisance’ was having… a Mr. Simon IN HER HOUSE, whiskeyed, sitting there wallet in pocket and … “having nothing” to sell him. She always was a forced dash ahead of these “if I twelve Mr. Simons I’m set” ‘customers’.
This brings us back to the …Sophia Kimball’s...., Captain Merritt Kimball’s wife’s… ‘chest of drawers… in my grandmother’s upstairs ‘bedroom’ WITH the ‘no good’ painting on the wall above the bed AND my grandmother’s sweaters in the drawers.
Disappearing for scant and precious seconds after plopping the glass with ONE ice cube and the …dirty old whiskey bottle… down beside Mr. Simon, my grandmother returned to living-room-conversation-poise… after… slipping… up the back stairs and… taking ONE sweater out of a drawer of the chest of drawers and setting it ‘on top’. She was now ‘loaded for bear’. Mr. Simon sipped the whiskey. PERHAPS it was his THIRD SIP my grandmother noted to herself.
At the edge of this …remedial… antiquarian precipice of collector – dealer… intercourse…: Mr. Simon IS going to BUY that chest. RIGHT? AT this edge, we must remember some facts and their fractures. It is the early ‘summer’ season of 1962 and my grandmother had… well within the last … ‘the second quarter’ (to uses New York financial lingo)… acquired, moved and ‘trap baited’ the chest from the Captain Merritt Kimball property. THAT property …then… IS being sold to a ‘summer people’ AND… my grandmother, we all recall, at the time of her timely chest of drawers purchase, was invited back by …the younger brother, Rufus Kimball, who had stated, “to speak it all through” regarding the REST of the… this EIGHT GENERATIONS of the… ‘Captain Merritt Kimball’ …estate…. FULL OF… ‘antiques’. She did do this aggressively.
‘Aggressively’ in HER slippery, cool, coiling, darkened, slither of a “the way of doing” (her words). THIS we need to notice for …it is a ‘THAT’… that… not only further defines the cast and SHARED rope line across the open water of ‘locals’ and ‘summer people’ in their ‘summer places’ but… also… returns us to the… this story’s purpose… of opening the ‘in the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance.’
An estate of this scale in 1962… was common in Maine. The whole complex of home, houses, buildings, out buildings, barns, sheds, stalls, roads, wharfs, shanties and ‘all the rest’ ‘all over the place’… IN 1962… did not receive the antiquarian scrutiny that it would… five years later… when “all that stuff” “took off” in a wild rollercoaster ride of middle America discovers antiques and… ‘collectables’. In brief summary, the VAST MAJORITY of the “STUFF” in such a Maine estate attracted NO commercial interest except, perhaps, as the romantically legendary ‘old farm auction’ where some local hick sold ‘the stuff’ for bids like ‘ten cents’ and ‘a quarter’. MORE OFTEN, the ‘old stuff’ ‘there’ was LEFT THERE, where ever it was, when… ‘the place was sold’ to ‘summer people’. THESE ‘summer people’ did nothing about ‘that stuff’ EITHER
‘That stuff’ IS NOT ‘the antiques in that place; it WAS FULL of them’. THOSE “that” MY GRANDMOTHER BOUGHT… IF she could… and ‘the family kept’ OR… actually SOLD those (the antiques) TO THE ‘summer people’ TOO if …they expressed an interest in ‘buying those’. Usually it was a three tier distribution involving all three; the family kept… objects like the family portraits, they sold the ‘parlor set’ in the front room to the ‘buyers’ who ‘wanted to keep it (the front room) the way it is’ and …my grandmother bought as many of the ‘good’ antiques as she could …get away with.
So here… and now… we have… Mr. Simon sitting, whiskeyed and already having his own ‘summer place’ derived from this formula… who has ‘discovered’ antiques and is now trained to ‘buy antiques’. These antiques that he buys… always seem to having the two features of being a ‘locally historic antique’ AND being a ‘something my wife would like’ TOO and… a ‘him’ being nudged along of this ROMANTIC TRADITION developing… by becoming “customered” (an active verb) by …a local antiques dealer who also ‘knows a lot about local history’ ‘they say’.
What we need to notice right here is that WHILE Sophia’s chest is upstairs waiting for Mr. Simon… my grandmother is in another seaport buying another cargo to “take home”. Traveling to the Kimball estate, she is admitted and chatted by Rufus. THEN she is chatted by the older brother… the eighth generation ‘Merritt’. She …has landed here in her own boat from a far away home port and… starts to gather up “everything that’s not nailed down”? No. She is very…. very, very, VERY selective. AND stupefyingly QUIET and RESERVED about ALL OF THIS. Example?
Without any notice… she ‘notices’ ‘a bowl’ on a shelf in a closed door cupboard in the smaller rear room with the very large old fireplace in it. Without mention she takes that bowl out of the cupboard and says “fifty” to Rufus and his brother. Rufus looks at the bowl my grandmother is holding and …writes down ‘fifty’ (cents) on his paper slip with his pencil. Unlike the other minor items; a mere handful ‘on this visit’, that my grandmother has purchased, she does not ‘set this (bowl) out’ but actually carries it around with her the rest of the time of her ‘on this visit’. When this ‘on this visit’ is ‘just the right (amount of) time’ and ‘just the right (amount of) money’ for an ‘on this visit’ ‘today’ …that MY GRANDMOTHER decides it to be… she… ‘closes out’, moves her newly purchased cargo out to her ship …with Charles’ help and… still holding the bowl… sails away ‘home’.
At home, she enters still carrying the bowl. She travels through the house to a “crummy” 1930’s china cabinet and ‘slips’ the ‘old bowl’ into a far back lower left corner where it is ‘almost out of sight’. She closes the door, turns the key to lock the door (leaving the key in the lock) and says nothing at all to anyone ever about any of this… at all. I… I; a mere eight years old at 1962… had to LEARN this. That was WELL AFTER I …learned… WHAT that bowl was ‘in fact’ AND what it was ‘in the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance”. The only way ANYONE ever ‘saw’ anything like that bowl my grandmother had was by THEM… ‘seeing it’… and bringing that seeing it ‘up’. My grandmother never would never bring ‘up’ until YOU or I… were in her pirate den by your… or MY self. If one did not bring ‘up’ then any ‘it’ …did not exist.
With Mr. Simon’s fourth sip ‘glass down’…:
“I have found an OLD painting Mr. Simon.”
“AN OLD ONE, Mr. Simon. Perhaps you would be so kind as to LOOK at it.”
“Look at it”.
“And tell me IF I am misjudging IT. BEFORE I SHOW IT, Mr. Simon. I am SURE you understand these things Mr. Simon.”
“Understand these things?”
“BETTER than I do, Mr. Simon.”
“Better I am SURE. Or your WIFE would CERTAINLY, Mr. Simon.”
“Certainly? She would?”
“Yes, certainly. Mr. Simon. Will you please SEE the painting?”
“Well… YES… I suppose SO.” said Mr. Simon now looking around the room for a… painting.
“I must take you UPSTAIRS.”
“Oh. yes… OF course. The painting is UP stairs.” said Mr. Simon still poking his eyes around the room.
My grandmother rose and she was followed by Mr. Simon’s rise but he, with a dexterous arm gesture, tipped up the whiskeyed glass to his mouth and finished the ‘dash’.