“I work with idiots”, particularly the word ‘idiots’… is a generic and scruffy Maine antiques dealer’s expression to capture… from the realm view of the scruffy “that know”… the perpetual lack of knowing – lack of looking – lack of working – and – ‘too lazy to care’ …‘of people’ …with their antiques… in the many… many… forms it transpires ‘in’. After a few decades of self exposure, it becomes, after a few more decades, a …generic …and easy default explanation as to “WHY” sound minded people take very not sound minded actions with their antiques. I am ‘used to this’ and do not …ever… try to correct the flow of its murky waters.
Therefore, after nearly twenty years had passed I did not ‘very’ anything when the …now old… heir in charge of my grandmother’s estate called me up and “WANT YOU” to “LOOK OVER” the “THINGS” “I inherited from” “YOUR GRANDMOTHER” and… “SEE IF YOU WANT ANY OF THEM” meaning actually WILL YOU PAY ME MONEY FOR … that stuff.
I said I’d “LOOK”. We made an appointment at HER house. An advance appointment. Two days later she called me “TO SEE” if I “WILL COME TO **** (another heir’s home) INSTEAD” “SHE HAS THINGS TOO”.
I went to the second house. One car parked in the driveway had its hatchback up showing its back space full of four cardboard boxes AND some ‘too big to fit’ in the boxes other iota on top. I walked by that antiques display and up to the kitchen door that was opened for me as I approached and …after some …no hugging or similar family familiars… greeting we went into the “television den” where a classic Maine yellow with stenciled and hand painted decoration, all original and untouched… probably made in Livermore Falls, Maine… 1830’s woman’s dressing table… had been hauled (dragged by an old woman) from ‘over behind the TV’ into the room’s central open space.
Rapidly with out anything being said and I saying nothing, doing nothing and NOT moving toward the table I …mentally… whirled rapidly with expressionless viper ALL… ANYTHING… “about it”. Aside from the “obvious” that the table was ‘old, real, perfect, Maine, Livermore, good and an “I’ll take that”… I conjured no “this was my grandmother’s” type data AT ALL ‘about it’ …NOT THAT it MATTERED.
These two old Maine girls were in ‘cut to the chase’ mode so the actual home and dressing table owner right away offered me the chance to buy this dressing table. I deflected a show of any interest with a “This was my Grandmother’s?”
THAT worked to deflect the need to applaud verbally the ‘stand alone’ gem qualities of the dressing table AND pushed the can of whose “BUYING” what why and “how much now”…across the floor and AWAY from ME.
“Um. Yes I got that from YOUR GRANDMOTHER years ago.”
“Oh NICE” I commended, stepped to the table and opened the left top drawer. Inside the little drawer was a piece of torn paper… with a pencil note on it. I saw this but could not read the pencil note. I did recognize that it was of my grandmother’s hand.
A “SHE let me have this LONG AGO when JACK AND I were MARRIED.” came toward me while I …closed the little drawer. “I want to get rid of it.”
“Get rid of it?”
“It takes up too much SPACE”.
“Space here.” I heard myself say.
“Would you BUY that?” she continued.
“Buy it? How much?” I said while still sort of dream world focused.
“Oh I don’t know… YOU tell ME. It’s VERY OLD you know.”
“Old? Yes. Two hundred. Dollars.” I said calmly. Firmly.
That caused a throwback of sorts; pitched the her pitch back at her. The other sister was standing off so… this second sister verbally caught the throwback by …opening her mouth and saying nothing… for about eight seconds… where upon she looked at the other sister, the one who had been in charge of the estate, then looked at me and said “Ok.”.
I took a rubber banded roll of paper money out of my jacket pocket and truly peeled off two hundred dollars in twenty dollar bills and handed it to her. To this day I have absolutely no inkling as to what she or the other sister thought of the offer other than that I was not expelled from the house and our business continued. I would gather from these actions that my offer was, at the least, “ok”.
A few minutes later, when I lifted, by myself, the dressing table out into the shade beside my truck, I took the slip of paper out of the drawer. Later, in the truck cab, I read it. It says “Dolly Kent (Capt.) Ephraim Kent”. Translated the note means ‘this dressing table was Dolly Kent’s, wife of sea captain Ephraim Kent and I say this because I bought it from that estate”. I could bank that “the very subtle trademark traditions of this whole… Maine… romance” note. It (the dressing table) was what my grandmother was looking for. It was Dolly Kent’s ghost.
Before taking the dressing table outside. Before enough silent time passed after the passing of the …cash. Before anyone had to make an awkward stammer about anything at all… this sister… in the television den of her home… that was actually pretty dark on that sunny morning… turned her back to me to face a dark wall while saying “I HAVE THIS TOO.”
She, with her right arm moving into the dark ahead of her and grasping with thumb and fist, began to drag forward a… two drawer sewing stand… that this arm found in this dark. This sewing stand was of itself… as dark… as the darkness of the wall of the television den wall where …she hid it… but it came forward to be slightly illuminated before MY EYES as ‘of splendid proportions’ ‘an 1840-50 two drawer sewing stand’ with ‘original old finish and surface’, original drawer knobs’ and… original old surface upon… solid bird’s eye maple drawer fronts. Again; “I mentally… whirled rapidly with expressionless viper ALL… ANYTHING”… “about it”. THIS TIME, ABOVE the ‘obvious’ I hand tagged on the circle of duck, duck, goose, my grandmother’s a ‘show you”: An ever so faint memory of a ‘that’; a ‘this is a SEWING STAND’, a “from Old Rufus’ ROOM”; a ‘Captain Merritt Kimball estate’ “from there”. (see Summer Place – Part Ten)
“I TOOK THIS from YOUR GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE” she said while I was mentally off on a voyage to a “IT WAS UP AT THE STAIR TOP of the BACK STAIRS YES I REMEMBER”.
“IT NEEDS TO BE REFINISHED. I’M NEVER GOING TO DO IT.”
“Refinished?” I said.
“TO MUCH WORK. IT WOULD BE NICE THOUGH.”
“You are? Want to?”
“YES BUT IT NEEDS WORK”.
I tagged my grandmother and had run off around the circle duck, duck, goose? Who IS the duck and WHO is the goose. There was no note in the drawer. Back in 1962 a sewing stand like this was “nothing great”. Today, in the ‘old surface’ amongst the ‘that know’: I never bother to put price tags on them (old New England sea captains estate sewing stands). The tag might ‘scare someone’.