I returned home a little before noon. I had purchased a truck full of ‘old stuff’ from an old shed at a local estate. I emptied the truck of its load of ‘antiques’ at a warehouse. I had saved out two ...Staffordshire black transferware and pink lustre decorated... teapots... and... a set of four... English emerald green blown glass cordials (perhaps aperitifs?)... in the cab of the truck. Both groups were from the 1840’s. Both teapots were ‘damaged’. Those ‘old things’ had not been in the old shed. They were found in the dining room of the estate... by the matron heir of the estate, Helen Savage Roth. She had offered them to me at a nominal price and I bought them.
I took them inside our home and put them on the kitchen table as I often do with ‘things’ ‘I buy’ so my wife could see them. I eat lunch at the kitchen table. It was time for my lunch. My wife’s computer was at the table. So was her I-pod. So was a folded-open-at-its-start article in The New Yorker magazine. That was placed where I sit to eat my lunch.
My lunches are simple. I put two pieces of bread in a toaster to toast. This day I put some leftover cold chicken on the bottom toast. Then I put some of my wife’s made-from-our-garden tomato ‘salsa’ on top of the chicken. Then the top toast ...on top. I cut the sandwich in half on its little plate. I sit down and ate it. I drink left over cold black coffee. To make, eat, drink and put the little plate in the sink... this lunch... takes about fifteen minutes. Then I go back to work... outside at the farm... or... I drive away in the truck.
During the actual eating of the sandwich, I ‘read’ something. This day I started to read the article from the New Yorker that had been set at ‘my place’. To be precise... and NOT be what I was in fact; cavalier casual with a lunch time “MY SANDWICH and who CARES what I read”... I precisely note the article; Janet Malcolm, “Profiles. Nobody’s Looking At You. Eileen Fisher and the Art of Understatement”, The New Yorker, Sept. 23, 2013, pgs. 52-63. I ate my sandwich. I started to read the article. When the sandwich was eaten, I stopped reading and left. It took me twenty-one days to ‘read’ that article. I didn’t think much of this. Amongst other business, I returned to the Helen Savage Roth estate three times as I read the article. I didn’t think much of this either. Helen was ‘closing up the house’ ‘for the winter’. She was ‘going to Florida’. Aside from ‘knowing she goes there’, I ‘don’t know anything about that’. She ‘comes back’ ‘in the spring’. I usually don’t hear from her until September when she starts to ‘close up’ again. Then she calls me and I ‘go there’. We’ve been doing this for at least fifteen years.
Helen has been “cleaning out” for ...nearly... fifteen years. When I first was called to her estate she was “absolutely not” “cleaning out” “ANYTHING” and had “never” “CLEANED OUT” “ANYTHING”. She lived, sans dead husband, as the grand matron heir in HER great, great, great, great grandfather’s ‘sea captain’s’ ‘mansion’. Definitive on this point... at this point; “HE” “was NOT a sea captain”. Helen knows this and I will elaborate soon enough. In the eyes of the ‘all others’ who ‘drive by, view and inquire’, the “Captain Savage” “mansion” IS a ‘sea captain’s mansion. In the town, it is easier for ‘everyone’ to “go in that direction who cares WHAT they believe”.
Helen ‘inherited’ ‘the Savage fortune’. This includes the mansion. The mansion has been owned by the Savage family since they built it in the 1850’s. It is full of generations of Savage ‘things’. When I first met Helen she “has never done anything about the antiques why should I”. She told me. She was ensconced very comfortably within the mansion. She “lives just the way I always have” in the mansion that is “just the way its always been”. “And” she told me the first day I met her, “I’m not changing anything”.
That was fifteen years ago from the day I sat down to eat my sandwich and read the article about Eileen Fisher.
The way I first went to the Savage mansion and met Helen came about ‘by referral’. An attorney I had done some (estate inspection) work for was having lunch with another attorney who presented him with a ‘problem’ about an ‘appraisal’ and inquired if ‘you know anyone I can get’. Correctly telling him that I ‘do not do appraisals’ but complimentarily saying that I ‘am the one to get’, I was referred.
This attorney called me about ‘doing an appraisal’. “I do not do appraisals” I said and then had to explain... that I ‘inspected’ estates and would then report (to who hires me) “what I see, if anything”. “No...: NO appraisals. JUST WHAT I SEE”. Eventually, within this conversational comprehension glitch, he DID hire me based on ...not knowing what I was actually going to do AND the strength of the referral from the other attorney. HE made an appointment for me to ...go to the Savage mansion estate and “meet” Helen. It was for 10:30 in the morning qualified with the declaration that “She (Helen) does not like ‘early mornings’ so do not arrive earlier”.
“Fine.” I said.
Then he restated to me what he had told me at first; that he had already ‘hired’ an ‘antiques appraiser’ from ‘in town’ (from the actual town the Savage mansion is in) who HE felt was fully qualified to ‘DO THIS’. This appraiser (who I’d never heard of) had gone to the mansion... also on a ‘morning’ appointment... and... was very shortly expelled from the mansion by Helen who also very shortly had called this attorney “very angry” about this hired appraiser and “never wanted to see her again”. The attorney didn’t ‘know what that was about’ for neither Helen or the hired appraiser could ‘explain’ ‘what happened’. In addition to ‘filing that’ information I told the attorney that I ‘have been thrown out of estates too’ so ‘understand this’.
“Understand this?” he said.
“Oh. Ok then.”
He then repeated his vague description of the Savage estate, the mansion, Helen and that ‘there are a lot of antiques I’ve been told.”
“By who?” I said.
“The appraiser.” He said.
“Oh.” I said.
So... at least fifteen years ago... after this introduction, I ‘went to’ the Savage mansion to ‘inspect’ its ‘estate contents’.
When I arrived, I parked the truck in front of the mansion and ascended the rough cut granite front steps before the front door. Rusted iron boot scrapers that had been painted black rose at each end of the top step. They included... and I turn here to begin the vicious swipe of the dragon’s tail ...of this tale... the coy and understated embellishments of two decorative wrought iron curls on each end... of each boot scraper. The boot scrappers were just slightly bent at their bases from... one hundred and fifty years of ‘service’. These old usage bends are too... coy and understated. Just as the rough cut granite stone steps themselves are ...coy and understated. Too.
Standing on this top step, I stood before the front door to the mansion. This door was wide open. I paused, looked inside to see down a front hall with ...the requisite and formally understated tall clock to one side of this ‘hall’. It was across from ‘the stairs’. I, without hesitation or timid restraint, wrapped the knuckles of my left hand very soundly on the open door.
“COME RIGHT IN” a woman’s voice boomed from ...somewhere within the ‘Captain’ Savage mansion. I stepped inside. I did not close the door.