Teddy Squirrel 1946-2017
“Teddy come in the shop the other day. Noth’en: Brought noth’en IN. BOUGHT noth’en. Took noth’en OUT. WORTHLESS as the day I was BORN. He’s in pretty bad shape you know. Not just FAT but CAN’T DO noth’en. Huff and puff over to his chair. Biggest damn chair I got. He don’t even know what THAT IS.”
(The “chair” is a transitional New England Sheraton wingchair circa 1825. It’s the last gasp of the true period; “of a design period”, wingchair. ‘Heavy’; carrying these late lines, it is actually a rare New England form to find for the wingchair ‘died out’ as a design form with the Empire and then Victorian period styles ‘seating’ innovations. Not that Teddy would know or care).
“He sat in that damn chair eating Gingerbread Men. Six of ‘em. Offered one to me. I said NO. First he eats their feet. Then one bite on their crotch. Two bites for the arms. Then one bite for the head just like that’s a fifty cent piece. Always offers me one whatever it is. Mostly molasses cookies. Sometimes a Hermit. He likes those you knows. Says (local one of two Brunswick Maine area box store grocery bakeries) ‘MAKE A GOOD HERMIT’. Sumpthin else he being a FAT ONE ain’t he!”
“Teddy” eats cookies in front of me all the time too. With his little cup of Styrofoam coffee. Little cup he throws out in my trashcan. Just like Pigpen he is; traveling trashcan filler. Always eating a BAKE GOOD. Brush the crumbs off his belly on to my rug. Says doing that (brushing the crumbs) is his “exercises”. All that with the huff and puff. He won’t be able to get around much longer the way he’s headed. Not much I can do about it: I’m not a first responder. When he’s down they’re gonna need a BUCKET.”
“She’s wear’en THEM old PEARLS.” Teddy said to me. “THAT’S HOW I know that she’s RICH. OLD greasy PEARLS. Been around her neck since she was BORN and her Grammy DIED. Awful old pearls GREASY yellow from her neck. That yellow comes from the STRESS on her NECK try’en to HOLD that family together. Them new girls THINK pearls are WHITE just like their idiot TOO WHITE teeth. Smile at me with noth’en BEHIND THAT all day long. Just awful. BE-LITTLE her old yellow neck they do her.”
Teddy’s talking about Barbara; “Aunt Barbara” they call her. Has more good taste than a bucket orchard of (Maple) sap pails. Don’t they know nothing them Strip Mall Women Wasps. Do. Know nothing. “You buy pearls and hang ‘em around your neck”. That’s what they think that is; their CLASS. But it run afoul don’t it. And even Teddy know that. Don’t he.
Now Barbara’s yellow neck pearls match her teeth that she don’t ever show off. They didn’t have cosmetic dentist work when her teeth were in combat. Don’t think she don’t know it. She knows what ‘tight lipped’ means. That’s right above her pearls.
“Teddy” they call him; “Teddy Squirrel”. That’s not his front name. It’s his behind the back name. Stuck. They call him “MISTER Squirrel” too: That’s right; MISTER Squirrel with the MISTER being just what you think it is. Even Barbara calls him that... right to his face too. “What you eating today Mr. Squirrel? Scottish Shortbread from my Grammy’s old Christmas tin?” She says to him. With her crooked yellow teeth and old dirty yellow pearls. I don’t have to be there to ‘I suppose’.
Barbara set me over a woman looking for glassware. It took eight or nine months but she’s starting to buy some better things; American, New England ‘pressed glass. Takes a while for them to understand the quality and the feel of that quality. For example, one is not gonna feel the quality if you wear new shiny white pearls you just bought at a Women Wasp strip mall. Barbara says that. She was given her old dirty yellow pearls by her grandmother who wore them until the day she died. Now don’t go saying Barbara didn’t take them off her dead neck herself. Because she did.
She put them on that day and never took them off. Hasn’t yet. Even though she’s getting demented. You okay with that?
Anyway, this woman she sent is suddenly looking at the early English dark blue Staffordshire Transferware. I have some on a shelf. She called it “Flow Blue”. I tried to correct her noting that this early dark blue came earlier; 1800-1825 and that (the) Flow Blue is Victorian 1850’s. I know she didn’t get that yet. But.
She told me she wanted to buy a damaged creamer she looked at ($65.00). Nothing has come of that yet. But that’s a start. I told her that this early blue ‘sends the right message. To women like Barbara. She knows what that means and wants to do that. “We’ll see” won’t I.
Teddy don’t ....ahhhh.... the ‘dark blue’ or its message anyway. Oh he’s seen it on the shelf but never goes near that. No... he’s always got some halfway antique commonly called collectable he’s in some state of ‘found out’ with and, well, wants me to help him ‘go from there’ with it. For no money for me. He’s Mister All for Me, None for You. I can see him coming so, like, that’s that.
“Those are Victorian pearls. That’s why they are like that. They are real ocean pearls. Not today’s grown and harvest garden pearls. This string are all old and all wild. That’s why they look like that. They are old and on their original wire. That’s why they cost so much. They are hard to find and when I find them many times they are not for sale.”
That was a fair promotion I listened to a dealer puff. Then she backed off. The customer; a boyfriend – girlfriend team, ‘weren’t there yet’. Takes a while. Takes a long time to turn a pearl necklace yellow from an old neck. But I said to her that it was a pleasure watching her puff that quality. Stick to the classic but in their best state; best ‘how they got here’. That’s what the antiques are you know. They are something you can’t get anyway else. They are old and are that way because they ARE old and have, too, the qualities of that age and this, too, makes them more singular. Antiques are not found in strip mall stores with vanity labeled store bags having a stupid name printed on them. They are found around the neck of a dead grandmother. That’s where antiques come from.
Now Teddy, he don’t know any of that to act on. He do know a little something from breeding, upbringing and ‘way its suppose to be’. He likes that raspberry jam the Trappist Monks are suppose to make. But that is hollow and we all know that. What Teddy don’t know is the best raspberry jam is made in August by the old historical society ladies. But even that’s second fiddle to just mashing the raspberries up and slopping them on top of vanilla ice cream. Teddy just don’t know how good that can be. Everyone of them damn historical society women have an old pearl necklace around their old necks too. And know it; know that too.
Do they eat the raspberry ice cream with silver spoons? Yes they do. Do they spoon their homemade raspberry jam with a silver spoon? Yes they do. Does Teddy notice this.
He’s over there with the Trappist Monk raspberry jam oration he repeats, without modification, each August. You ever seen him with a smeared goo-gob of that jam on his tie?
He never notices it until it’s too late.
But I do say this for him: He wears his clothes; keeps himself UP. He come out his door that way everyday; kept up. I say that for him.
ONE TIME, I remember, he took Michael’s old motor launch out on the lake. Stepped right in behind the old steering wheel and took off. He was the only captain on that lake that day wearing a tie. When he come back into the dock the boys looked at him in his tie and sweater and tied him right up. Teddy just stepped off that launch and walked up the dock. No one said anything but didn’t he love it.
That was all vanity. His tie and sweater weren’t though. He’s wearing those right now just like they’re his damn pearls. He don’t know that though.