Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Coy - Part Four - Great Aunt Winnie


Part Four

Great Aunt Winnie

            For the next few minutes Helen engaged a one sided chat:  She spoke... ‘with’ (at?) me.  Therein she introduced foundation characters that I still stand on to this day.  “That was Daddy’s”, “When Daddy was....”, “Mama’s, “Mama said” (or “told me”) and ...the one that proved the most influential to the Savage estate... though at the time a ‘slipping by me’... “Aunt Winnie”, “Aunt Winnie’s” and “WHEN Aunt Winnie”.  She also used “Great Aunt Winnie”.  Great Aunt Winnie applied for Helen’s children.  Winnie was Helen’s aunt. 
            Passing the Savage family estate ...contents... to Helen’s children, up to this... I remind... fifteen years ago first meeting... moment... had been a loosely considered and conducted one sided ‘crazy as a shit house rat’ effort by Helen that defaulted to what “your Great Aunt Winnie” had once... and of equally scattered organization and direction... (?)... “told me” (Helen).  “Good” of the contents of the Savage mansion was what “Aunt Winnie” had ...said (?)... was ‘good’.  Aunt Winnie’s ‘good’ was shown to me promptly... inclusive of showing me Aunt Winnie’s ‘bad’.  Too.  This last occurrence in a ‘cold - first visit’ estate setting is ...very unusual for me to encounter.  This became even MORE unusual when Helen ...slam dunked this showing in a way that became a Helen Savage trademark of our relationship.
            Helen started squirming in her chair and, bare footed, stood up.  She turned to her left and went through the doorway behind her and... disappeared.  I had not had time to consider this door way and its beyond.  I did now.
            I was seated so that I could see further to the left through the doorway while my view to the right was cut short due to my seating angle.  Past the door way I suddenly realized I was looking at... clutter.  Dim lighted... dark mounded... across the room’s floor... to the far wall... piled upon furniture and boxes... clutter.  Helen, I could hear, was rummaging out of my sight to the right.  She came back into our sitting room carrying two glass bowls.  I recognized the form.  She, standing barefoot in front of me, presented first one... then the other.  I took them one at a time and held them... one in each hand.  “JUST PUT THEM ON THE FLOOR” she said as I noticed she had a ...framed photograph wedged under her arm in her arm pit.  “THIS IS AUNT WINNIE” she said presenting that to me.  I put the glass bowls on the floor and took the photograph.  Helen sat back down.  I turned the framed photograph over and noted the in recent ink “Great Aunt Winnie” identification label taped... with blue tape... to the back of the frame.  I turned the frame back over and contemplated ‘Aunt Winnie’.  My mixed-minded internal evaluation report did not get enough time to... finish a report .  “I DON’T KNOW if you would KNOW what those ARE.” Helen said gesturing to the glass on the floor.
            “I believe I do.” I said.

            “OH... then.  WELL?”
            I reached down and retrieved one of the glass bowls.  I set the photograph on the floor when I did that.  I lifted it a foot off the floor, turned it upside down and refracted the bottom in the room light so as to ‘catch the signiture’ that I knew would be there.  It was there.  I set that small bowl ...with a heavy ‘snail’ handle... back down.  I picked up the second and repeated the action.  This time my refraction inspection showed no signiture.  It also showed me a different bottom side finish to this vessel; it ‘tapered’ to the bowl top as opposed to the fully round bowl shape of the first vessel.  It was also slightly larger than the first.  I, still holding this vessel, looked at Helen.  She was looking at me.
            “HOW MUCH?” she said.
            “Much?  I...”
            “WILL YOU PAY.”
            “I pay?”
            “Right now.  CASH.”
            “For me to ...BUY THESE... from you... right now?  Cash?”
            (OK ... this DOES HAPPEN... in this ‘demand’ format... often I and most... antique hunters (pickers).  It’s an in-your-face ...face-off... mud wrestle... jump in the pit and duke it out... sort of ...aggressive... leap... THAT must NOT be a ...stammering lily livered... replied to and IS BEST... slammed right back.  I did this.)  “One hundred” I said ...choosing a ‘high but safe’ price for ...both... ‘of them’.
            Helen looked at me; dead eye to eye.  Then she looked at the bowls on the floor and in my hand.  Then at my eyes again.  “How much for just ONE.”
            I slammed right back; I saw the trick:  “Depends on which one.” I said.
            “Which one?” said Helen.  “Ok:  Which one”.
            “One hundred.”
            “For which one.”
            “The signed one.”

            Helen paused.  She looked at me hard.  Then she smiled and said “SOLD!  You can have the other one.”
            “Ah... sure... OK.” I said.  I wasn’t ‘sure’ about any of this.  In hindsight I now know that I’d just ‘done’ my ‘first deal’ with Helen.  There have been many more similar this one.  This was my first introduction to what is Helen’s ...generosity.
            “PAY ME and I’m gonna tell you their story.”
            I took my ...folded cash clip... from my inside jacket pocket and took out a ...pre-folded... one hundred dollars; five twenties.  I stood up and reached the cash across the space between us above the vessels and handed it to Helen’s pink puffy little fingers.  She unfolded and counted the five twenty dollar bills and said “NICE”.
            “THE SIGNED ONE was AUNT WINNIES.” she continued.  “She bought it in NEW YORK at the FAIR (New York World’s Fair 1939-1940).  YOU know all that I gather.  But you SEE her good TASTE.  Always a PERFECT selection.  I GREW UP with THAT.”
            “The olive dish?”
            “WELL THAT TOO but with Aunt Winnie’s THINGS and HER TASTE.  She showed me that DISH years and years ago when I was a teenage girl.  I always saw it as Aunt Winnies DISH.  Why not?  Steuben WHO CARES.  So years ago now I showed it to MY daughter just like Aunt Winnie showed it to me.  WHO CARES was her response.  So I said nothing more.  THEN... a few years ago she comes here with THAT.” said Helen pointing to the other dish.  I tell her its not the same.  She says it is too.  I say it is NOT and that the FORM is different.  The size is bigger.  It’s NOT SIGNED.  She says it’s the way it’s SUPPOSE to be.  I say again ‘it is not’.  She doesn’t understand me at all.  She cannot see the difference.  Oh my God I say; it’s OVER.”
            “Well she’ll probably figure it out.” I said.
            “No.  I know that look.  I don’t wish upon a star anymore.  I can’t.  She gave me a cell phone.  That is what means something to her.  I don’t even know where it is.  They telephone it to FIND IT.  It rings.  It’s around here somewhere.  Anyway... THAT’S HOW all this STARTED.  I made the MISTAKE of mentioning my concern to that idiot bank and NOW YOU’RE HERE.  YOU... are APPEARING TO BE....; you could be... JUST WHAT I NEED; you know something and your QUICK.  That bank is full of the SLOWEST MINDS.  When I’m talking to them its like I’m walking around behind them KICKING THEM IN THEIR BUTTS.  They don’t even know it’s happening.  Anyway.  That’s where the APPRAISAL come from.  And you.  So... THIS is what we’re gonna DO.  I’m gonna tell them YOUR OK.  Then you’ll come back here and we’ll try to start to figure this whole thing out.  NOW:  You’ve got to understand that I don’t really have very much stuff MYSELF.  I didn’t get very much of what’s HERE myself.  This house was FULL when I was BORN.  So... it’s... EACH generation has ten people who either LIVE HERE or traveled through here.  And their THINGS are here too.  IF HE went to college and then went to Boston his college trunk is still UP THERE FULL just the way he sent it back here.  NO ONE ever opened even.  Well... now... I have... I suppose.  JUST trying to figure out what to DO with all of this.  It really IS over whelming.  So those idiots at the bank want a whole LIST of EVERYTHING.  I’m not going to do THAT.  WHO READS A GOD DAMN LIST I said.  So NOW I realize I’m gonna have to do this myself; CLEAN OUT this place MYSELF.  Do you understand THIS?”
            “Yes.  Certainly.  This is what I do.”
            “You do CLEAN OUT?  Or just appraise it?
            “Well... not even that; just look it all over and suggest.”
            “Well I...”
            “SAY SELL IT.  Get rid of it.  What DO you do with all this clutter anyway?  That olive dish.  That was EASY.  You know what that is.  Do you KNOW... he* was only twenty-six when he created that?”
            “Are you sure you want to sell me that?”
            “SURE I’M SURE.  This place is FILLED with that kind of stuff.  SHOPPING.  Aunt Minnie was very good at SHOPPING.  Mama went along.  Aunt Minnie LOVED going SHOPPING.  TAKE HER PHOTOGRAPH TOO”.
            “Take her photograph?  But don’t you...”
            “OH GOD:  I’ve got at least a HUNDRED of those.  Oh... that reminds me.”  Helen stood up and left the room again.  Seconds later she returned with two 1950’s cut glass goblets.  “HERE.  Those are for you.” She said handing them to me.  Helen looked down at the photograph of Aunt Winnie.  “SHE’S ALWAYS PHOTGRAPHED like that.  What am I going to DO with all of those old photographs?.  I could make a BONFIRE of her PHOTOGRAPHS.  Same for these GLASSES.  I’ve been giving those away in pairs for DECADES now.  She must have bought THREE HUNDRED of them.  NOW LOOK HERE.  If we’re going to DO THIS... YOU ...have to DO THIS.  TOO.  THAT’S WHAT you’re HERE FOR.  YOU said this is WHAT YOU DO.  SO THERE.  I didn’t DO THIS.  I just INHERITED IT.  I understand it now; I HAVE TO DO THIS MYSELF.  But your gonna be here.  OK?”

            “I hope so.”
            “GOOD.  Enough.  For NOW.  ....   NOW:  I have to tell you how all this got started HERE.  Where all this comes from
            “Where this comes from?”
            “THE SAVAGES.  OLD captain SAVAGE; the WHALE man.  HE WASN’T even a CAPTAIN.
            “I’m gonna TELL you.  Set those down.” Helen said gesturing to the wine goblets.

*:  John Dreves, designer for Steuben Glass.  This is his classic ‘olive bowl’ he designed for the New York World’s Fair, 1939-1940.  They are still being made today; one may ‘buy one new’.

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