Part Twelve - A
When… my grandmother spied …the old china bowl… in the cupboard… in the old kitchen… of the oldest and original… house… now but a ‘part’ of… the big, grand and later… ‘Captain Merritt Kimball house’… she… knew what it was… and… what it was. The old china bowl had TWO ‘what it was’
The first ‘what it was’ is antiquarian and clinical. My grandmother knew that she had discovered a classic English creamware punch bowl with the classic hand painted floral ‘King’s rose’ decoration. The title of ‘King’s rose’ for the name of the decoration has, in recent years, slipped from usage for it is an ‘old school’ New England antiques (dealer’s) title term that today is considered a sort of …slang term. In 1962 this title was still ‘the name’. Today, in the romantic underground vocabulary of the antiquarian interest, it is still in popular usage but… in most cases of usage… it is used to describe a very similar BUT NOT TRUE AND EXACT painted pattern, usually offered on plates, that are ‘later’ meaning… 1800 – 1825. ‘Later’ also means that antiquarians such as myself ‘don’t want that’. This current name usage is protected for it is actually very hard to …actually find… an actual… EARLY true creamware ‘King’s rose’ …anything. That is not the point here but it does enhance my usage of the word ‘clinical’.
True ‘King’s rose’ is ‘colonial’, ‘old attic’, ‘old settler’, ‘old sea captain’ and… never found in a ‘summer place’. It’s ‘too rare’ and when found… it’s ‘too expensive’ ‘for them’; ‘they don’t know what it is’.
This last my grandmother knew right then, right there and right there ever after. That is why Rufus sold “it” for fifty cents, why my grandmother never let go of “it” for the rest of the visit and …why she simply slipped “it” into the back and bottom of her …junky old china cabinet. Aside from a slightest of hand of an in the know ‘knows what they’re doing’ antiquarian visitor such as “the judge”… whose eye would make the true bee’s line to that ‘old china bowl’ but “never bought it”… “nobody cares” about “it”. It was, for my grandmother, “safe”. It stayed there until she died; “Nobody wants it”.
Well… they WANTED IT but… “wouldn’t pay”… “my price”. AND… WHEN they asked, they got to hear the saga, in one form or another, over and over again. AND …they ENJOYED hearing the saga for THAT was what made the ‘old china bowl’ “good”.
When my grandmother “kitchened” that ‘old china bowl’…: Right then: SHE KNEW WHAT IT WAS… as meaning number two. “IT” was “Compass Parker’s Bowl”. My grandmother had been looking for Compass Parker ANYTHING in the ‘Captain Merritt Kimball house’. She had not mentioned or discussed this with anyone and never ever did. “Nobody would care about that.” she’d say. It was and IS STILL the opposite; not only do ‘they’ “care about that” but THAT “IS” “it” about all of this. Compass Parker’s Bowl IS… “the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance” (Part One).
Sophia Kimball, wife of Captain Merritt Kimball… had a mother… whose name was Sophia too. THAT Sophia had a mother and HER name was Sophia. Too. THAT Sophia was married to, sort of , a George Parker. There were lots of George Parkers along the coast from about 1640 to 1800. THERE WERE LOTS OF PARKERS along the Maine coast. This one George Parker; Sophia’s husband, sort of, was distinguished from the others by the nick-name-that-stuck of “Compass”. He was “Compass Parker”.
The Parkers… along the Maine Coast… in the colonial era, may be considered a sort of coastal seafaring clan… in a very loose and casual way. Parkers were born, sailed along the coast ‘trading’ or occasionally ‘built a cabin’ on shore for ‘trading’… and died, in some way, only to be replaced by another Parker. Or two. What kept the Parkers going was their ability to keep going. Indians burned them flat. Settlers fled the Maine coast. They came back and rebuilt only to do it all over again. A Parker would appear ‘along the coast’ promptly to ‘engage in trade’… whatever that was… and the Parkers did not bother to define that.
This Sophia had a mother? Yes but who, where, when, why and IF SHE was a Sophia too… ‘is lost’. It is, though, very well understood… by the oral tradition of this saga, that THIS Sophia; Compass Parker’s ‘wife’… was Sophia… number one… for the saga… of the Captain Merritt Kimball house.
Compass Parker lived on a small boat with Sophia. They traveled up and down the Maine coast ‘trading’. Compass was engaged in trading… ‘molasses, slaves and rum’ ‘in the Salem – Boston area’. He had nothing to do with molasses and slaves. No one wanted those along the Maine coast. They did want rum. Compass quickly discerned this. In his small boat, the most valuable and negotiable commodity he could offer for trade was… rum. Silver and gold were useless on the coast of Maine. No one wanted that; what could one do with gold or silver in the Maine woods? Guns, powder and lead? Yes a good trader but not as good as rum. Rum… ‘you can drink’ in addition to ‘pay all debts’ with in addition to ‘buy anything with’. A little boat filled with little kegs of… scrupulously watered down “rum” was the perfect trading cargo. “EVERYONE” “wants it”. By knowing where he is, was and planned to go (hence “Compass”), Captain Parker “KNEW” the Maine Coast “IN THE DARK” and he knew ALL of the trading options from ‘Indians’ to ‘pirates’ to ‘fishermen’ to ‘settlers’ to… ‘ministers’. With greatest slight of hand skills, Compass Parker, in his boat with his wife… ‘came and went’. When his kegs of rum were gone and his traded cargo “aboard”, he… slipped away, slipped into port, traded a new rum cargo and slipped away again, over and over… saying nothing, and writing nothing down… ever. While doing this, Compass and Sophia had a daughter ...named Sophia… who …grew up on the boat.