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| Category: || Family Fiction |
Posted:|| January 22, 2020 Views: 51|
When George and Arlene Lundy got married, in the 1960's, they took their Ford Falcon and went antiquing for their honeymoon. Arlene was the one had started collecting things. It was something she picked up from her mother, on the family vacations they went on together; collecting souvenir plates of the state capitals they visited, coffee mugs with Currier & Ives scenes painted on them, little lamps with frosted glass shades and artisan pottery they would find in little stores on the back roads of the New England mountains. Those were some of Arlene's favorite memories of her mother: walking around in those little, old stores filled with those marvelous, magical things from far away places and long ago times. She always seemed to be trying to recapture those moments of discovery and the subsequent bargaining with the old shopkeepers that she shared with her mom. By the time she was eighteen, Arlene's cups, plates, vases and pots had filled a couple of shelves in her room. When George fell in love with her, he also fell in love with her love of all these little gems of the moments of her life and the treasure hunting that excited and brightened her mood.
They were married on a bright, blue and white Sunday in early October when the leaves were just beginning to turn; George would always remember with pleasure those colors whenever he thought about that day. The church was one of those simple, white steepled churches with tall, pointed, clear glass windows and it was full of light. Arlene, with her taffy colored hair done up in a fancy style and in her white, lace trimmed dress and veil, looked especially beautiful, unforgettable, something he would always look back on as a moment of his life. The reception was a lively affair with music and dancing that went on to the late hours. Everyone said it was a great time. In the morning they set out northeast through Connecticut and into Massachusetts on their little trip.
It was on the afternoon of that first day of their first trip together that she found the Tiffany vase that became her prized possession.
"She always kept it on that cherry, queen Anne table," George would tell his daughters many years later; "The one she put out in the entrance hall. It was the first thing you saw when you came into the house."
"It's a beautiful vase," Marie would demure as she thought about her mother. "She had an eye for things like that. That one had a real, elegant form to it, slender and drawn up on top, like a flower coming out of the ground. And it had that beautiful peach-rose colored graduated tint to the glass."
"People would ask her about that vase," Donna put in. "I mean, total strangers."
George sighed, leaning back in his chair, holding his cane. "I don't know if it was the vase, or because she found it on our honeymoon, our first trip together. But she loved that vase."
"That's right, she always said she found it on the first trip you took together," Marie concurred. "She told everyone that story."
"I still remember the time she found it," George went on, remembering. "It was a nice, fall day. She was wearing that dress that I liked, the sky blue pastel that matched her eyes, and that dark, blue plaid jacket. She looked beautiful. She was happy. She loved going in those antique stores. She turned on the radio in the car and I remember the radio was playing that song, 'California Dreaming.' She liked that song."
"'California Dreaming'" Donna said, "Yeah, she liked that song."
George went on. "I remember we were on this road north, in the country. The leaves were changing. We had breakfast in one of those little pancake places. That was some breakfast. It was one of the best breakfasts we ever had, out on the road. Real, buttermilk pancakes, with real, New England maple syrup. Good coffee. I remember her telling me, 'We've got to remember this place.' She was looking at the map, reading off the names of the towns she wanted to look in. Old Sturbridge. Concord. I remember thinking, how pretty she looked, with her face all brightened up, looking forward to those shops, with her hair all done up, in that dress."
Marie put an arm around his shoulders. "You guys had some good times together. You were happy."
George looked at his daughters. "Yeah, we were happy. After that, we drove on up a ways towards Old Sturbridge and we came to this little shop. It had one of those old wooden signs. 'Trinkets and Treasures'. I remember that."
"You remember that?" Donna asked him, grinning.
"Yes. And there was a cigar store Indian standing next to the door. 'Let's stop,' she asked me. So of course I stopped for her. There was this old, white haired lady in the place. A nice lady. It was full of all those old things your mother loved. Hurricane lamps, fire place dogs, chandeliers, grandfather clocks. Your mother walked around, you know, like she did, picking stuff up and putting stuff back down, looking into all the shelves and corners. 'My mother would have loved this place,' she whispered to me. I just followed her around, thinking, 'God, she looks so beautiful. I wish she would stay like this forever.' And then the old lady asks her if she's looking for something special. 'No,' your mother said, 'I'm just looking.'"
Donna chuckled to herself. "That's what she always liked to tell them. She was always 'just looking,'"
"She would know when she found it," Marie put in, looking at her father. "Right dad?"
George looked from Marie to Donna. There was something of Arlene in both of them, he decided, but more in Marie, he thought. "Yes, well. Then the old lady said to her: 'Come and take a look at this. It's special, and I don't just show it to everybody. But you look like you could appreciate something like this. I got it at an estate sale in Boston. One of the old sea captain's families.'"
Donna rolled her eyes. Marie was looking at her father.
George continued. "So she takes us to the back of the store. There are these chandeliers over our heads. Lamps all over; you know, the old ones with the fancy, stained glass shades. The stuff you see in mansions. Your mother's eyes lit up when she saw it. And on this back table, she has all these vases. She picks one of them up from the crowd and its that beautiful, sunrise colored vase," he said. They all looked at it, on the table in the front hall. "'It looks like a Tiffany,' She turns and looks at me with this excited look on her face. 'It is a Tiffany,' the old lady says, and she showed your mother the mark on the bottom. I'm thinking, this is going to be expensive. This is going to cost me some bucks. Not like some of the other things your mother bought, you know? But the way your mother was looking at that vase, the way she took it in her hands when the old lady handed it to her, I could see how much that vase would mean to her. Well, I couldn't let your mother down. So I took out my wallet and bought it. We had to cut one night off of our trip for that vase, but she didn't care. Neither did I. She talked about it all the way home."
"I wonder what it cost you," Donna said, looking at the vase on the table.
George shrugged. "I don't remember. It doesn't really matter. It made your mother happy. I think of all the things we bought together over the years, that vase reminds me of her the most." He looked around at all the plates, cups, pots and vases, the ceramic figures, around the house. Then he settled on the Tiffany vase.
"I could see that," Marie said, looking at her father. She put her hand on his arm.
"Did you ever have it appraised?" Donna asked. She was looking at the vase.
George shook his head. "We didn't care about things like that. She didn't buy stuff to resell. They weren't like investments. She loved hearing about where they came from and how they had carried on to her, over all the years. She'd tell people about the stores she bought the things in, the old men and old ladies who sold them to her, the stories of the families who used to own them. She was always wondering, she told me once, about the things those old vases had seen or overheard, in all those old houses, over all those years."
"She told me once that they reminded her of grandma," Marie said, "And all the times they used to go antiquing together when she was a girl. 'Treasure hunting', she called it."
George sighed. "Yeah. She used to go around with her mother, when she was young. She was close to her mother. They were a lot alike." He looked around at all the things around the house again. "She sure did collect a lot of stuff. Some people might say it's just junk. But they were something, to her. And now, when I look at them, they remind me of her, and all the trips we took, the stores we looked in together, the people we met, and how much fun we had. How happy she was."
"It's been three years since she passed, dad," Donna said. "It doesn't seem like three years." She looked around the room at all the old lamps, vases, cookoo clocks, hummel figures and plates and mugs her mom had collected and sprinkled around the shelves. "It all looks exactly the same. It's like you left them exactly where she put them and didn't once change a thing." She looked at her dad. His eyes were watering.
"God, I miss her," George said, wiping his face with his hand.
"Oh dad," Marie said, leaning over and giving him a hug.
Donna rubbed her head. "Well dad, what we want to tell you is, we don't think you should be alone here, anymore."
Marie turned and looked up at her sister. Then she looked back at her father. "We're worried about you," she said.
Donna went on. "You've been complaining about going up and down the stairs. We don't want you to fall, again. You've got that bad leg, you know. Maybe you should downsize. Sell the house and move into an apartment."
George looked up and shook his head. "I don't know," he said.
"Do you ever think of what you're going to do with all this stuff?" Donna asked him.
He turned and looked at her. "What should I do with it?"
"You could sell some of it," Donna said, "Some of it might be worth some money. Then you could get a smaller place. Assisted living, maybe."
George straightened up, holding his cane. He looked around the room. "I'd never sell it," he said, incredulously. "It's my life. It's her life. Why would I want to sell my life?" he turned and looked at Donna. Marie put her around him, looking at Donna.
"Of course, dad," Marie told him. "You don't have to do anything. I'll look in on you. I'll make sure you're OK."
Donna was looking at the vase.
George died a couple of years later. Marie called him, and when he didn't answer the phone, she drove over. She let herself n when he didn't come to the door, and she found him on the kitchen floor. The medical examiner said it was a heart attack. It had been quick.
After the funeral, Donna and Marie met at the house to figure out what to do with everything. They walked through the house looking at all the things. They went upstairs and looked through the bedroom. They looked out into the yard. They went downstairs and looked through the basement.
"There's a lot of stuff," Donna said, her hands on her hips.
"The house is different without dad in it," Marie said. "It's funny. I don't want to remember it like this."
"What do you want to do with it?" Donna asked her. "We've got to do something with it. There's taxes to pay on it."
Marie sat down in a kitchen chair. "Yeah, I know. The taxes are high." She looked around at the faded, floral wallpaper. "And then there's the maintenance. I don't have the money for it."
Donna sat next to her. She looked at her sister. "Neither do I. I don't think there's much to consider."
Marie shook her head. "We've got to sell it, right?"
"I don't think we have a choice. The sooner, the better, really."
Marie sighed. "Oh, God. What will we do with all the things?"
Donna shrugged. "I suppose we could take a few things we wanted. But I've just got that apartment. I don't have much room. And how are we going to do it fairly? They're worth all kinds of things."
"I'd like to keep some of the things," Marie said, looking at the mugs and plates on a kitchen shelf. "Something to remember them by."
"Well, pick out a couple of things, and I'll pick out a couple of things. They'll have to be of similar value, to make it fair."
"And then what?"
"I'll put an ad on Craig's list," Donna said. "Maybe an antique dealer will come and look at it. I'm sure some of it is worth some money." She was looking at the rose colored vase in the hall.
An antique dealer answered the ad and met them at the house the following Saturday afternoon. He was a somber, business like, middle aged man dressed in a grey suit. He introduced himself as Bob Allen, and shook their hands. Marie and Donna ushered him into the living room. He looked around, his eyes roving over paintings, plates, figurines, pots and clocks. he paused for some time on the Tiffany vase.
"Nice place you have here," he said. "You have a lot of things."
"Yes," Marie said nervously. "You see, it's our dad's house. He just recently passed away."
"Oh," Bob said. "I'm sorry to hear that."
"We're looking to sell the house," Donna told him, "So we have to clear out the things."
"Sure," Bob said, "I understand. Happens all the time." He turned around in the middle of the room, looking around at the lamps, knickknacks, plates and vases. "Anything you want to keep? Most people keep some things."
"We've split up what we could," Donna told him. Marie sat down on the sofa and folded her hands.
"OK," Bob said. "Let's get down to business." He looked more closely at a row of plates on a shelf over the fireplace, one of the lamps, the hummel figures. "Well, I'll be honest with you, right off the bat. I have an antique store in Hartford. I deal in a lot of the things you have here. I have tons of it. Honestly, there's not a lot of money in most of it. I mean, the Hummels, the plates; I have plenty of those at the shop. I couldn't give you more than $50 for them."
Marie looked up at him, a disappointed look on her face. "Our mother collected these things," she said, in a cracked voice. "They were her treasures. Our dad kept them after she passed, to remember her by."
"I understand," Bob Allen said. "I understand completely; I do. But I've got to have some room for mark-up." He looked at Donna, then at Marie. "They might sit in the shop for months. These days, people just don't buy much of that anymore. They don't have the room. They don't have the extra money. Kids these days, they just don't care about things like this."
"Would you take $75?" Donna asked, looking at Bob with a poker face.
His face was just as blank. He closed his eyes and shook his head, slowly. Then he opened his eyes. "I really couldn't do more than $50."
Donna looked at Marie. Marie looked like she wanted to say something, but she sat still. Donna took a deep breath. "Alright. We'll take the $50."
Marie sat back in the sofa, closing her eyes.
Bob looked at a lamp with a stained glass shade. "May I?" he asked. When Donna nodded, he picked it up and turned it over, scouring the base. Then he righted it and set it back down. He shrugged. "It's not a Tiffany. Not a Handel. Probably just a reproduction from the 50's or the 60's. These days, people go for the big name stuff. I don't know. I'll give you $50 for it."
"OK," Donna said. Then, she said quickly, "We do have a Tiffany."
"Yeah, I know," Bob said, turning to the vase on the Queen Anne table. "I saw it when I came in. May I?"
He picked up the vase carefully when Donna nodded, and examined the base. He looked at it closely, then he carefully put the vase down. "It has a Tiffany mark," he said. "No chips or anything."
Marie looked up at Bob, her eyes watering. "That was our mom's special piece. She found it on our parents' honeymoon. My dad told us it reminded him of when they first got married."
"You don't say?" Bob said, smiling a little. "That's some story." He looked down at the vase.
"We'd like to get something for that," Donna said. Marie looked up at her. She unclasped her hands.
Bob looked down at Marie. "I understand. Well, it's a nice little piece, I'd have to say. Your mom took good care of it. It's the nicest piece you've got. It's got a real, nice glaze on it, a nice, art-nouveau kind of look. Probably made in the early 1900's. The color scheme on it is actually kind of rare. It's nice."
Donna looked down at her sister. "What do you think, Marie?" she asked.
Marie shrugged. "I don't know."
Donna thought for a moment. Bob looked at her. "Would you give us a grand for it?" she asked him.
Bob smiled. He chuckled. "A grand?" He looked at Donna and shook his head. "That's steep. I don't know if I could do a grand on it. I need some room for mark up you know. I mean, I've got to resell it, and I have to make some money on it. I don't know if there's anything to made on it at a grand." He looked down at the vase, putting his hands on his pockets.
"It's a Tiffany," Donna said, firmly.
"Yeah, it's a Tiffany," Bob said, still looking at the vase. Then he looked up at Donna. "I'll give you $400 for it."
"No!" exclaimed Marie, looking at Donna.
Donna looked down at Marie. Then, at Bob. "750," she said.
He sighed. He shrugged. "I couldn't do more than $500," he told her. "I just couldn't."
Marie shook her head, looking up at Donna. "I don't know," she said.
"$500 cash?" Donna asked him.
"I'll tell you what," Bob said, gesturing to some coffee mugs with Currier & Ives scenes on them. "If you throw in the coffee mugs, and those plates, and that picture of the sailboat, I'll write you a company check right now for $700."
"Well?" Donna asked Marie. "We've got to clear the place out."
Marie looked up at her and shrugged. "I don't know," she said.
"You're not going to get a better offer," Bob told them.
Marie bowed her head. "What else can we do?" she asked.
"OK," Donna said.
The shop that Bob Allen had was on Main Street, in Hartford. It was called: 'Odds and Ends.' It had an old fashioned, multi-pane front window in a wooden frame, filled with Tiffany lamps, Meissen porcelain, old pendulum clocks, cast iron toys, dolls, doll houses, cast iron banks. The sign was an old, wooden bracket sign with an image of a bull on it. If you opened the door, a set of old fashioned bells rang cheerily. One day the bells rang and a couple came into the store; a lady wearing a tartan skirt with a white blouse, and a man in grey slacks and a blue, pastel shirt with leather shoes. When Bob came up from the back of the store, they were looking through a table of lamps with stained glass shades. The woman leaned over the table, looking closely at the glass work, turning price tags. The man stood behind her with his hands in his pockets.
Bob smiled. "Good afternoon," he said. "Can I help you with anything?"
The man looked at the lady. The lady looked at Bob and flashed him a smile. "We're just looking," she said.
"Anything in particular?" Bob asked.
"Well," said the lady, with a glance at the man behind her, "We're interested in Tiffany's."
Bob's smile grew broader. He lifted his arms from his sides, with the palms of his hands turned up. "You've come to the right place! How much are you looking to spend?"
The lady looked at the man. The man shrugged. The lady looked back at Bob. "It depends," she said.
"Some of these Tiffany's, I've got between three and five thousand on them," Bob said.
"That's a bit rich for us," the man said, looking straight into Bob's face.
"I've actually just acquired a great Tiffany piece," Bob said. "I picked it up at an estate sale. It's not a lamp. It's a vase. It's right over here." He turned to a Queen Anne table covered in glass vases. In front was the peach-rose sunrise Tiffany vase that had once belonged to George and Arlene. The lady and the man followed Bob to the table; the man's hands were still in his pockets. Bob picked up the vase and carefully held it up.
The lady looked over it. Then she looked back at the man. "We were really looking for lamps," she said, uncertainly. "We were really looking for dragonfly lamps." But she bent over the vase with some interest.
"Yes, well," Bob said, shrugging. "The lamps. The dragonfly lamps. They're in the ten thousand dollar price range, and I don't have any. Everybody knows about the lamps. But Tiffany actually made all kinds of decorative objects. They also made vases."
"I like the color," the lady said.
"Isn't it lovely?" Bob intoned. "It's actually a rare color scheme. Rose-peach. They called it Sunrise."
"Rare?" the man asked, looking over the lady's shoulder with an interested expression.
"Oh yes," Bob said firmly. "Quite rare. I think you'll look for a long time before you find another one like this."
"Does it have a mark?" the lady asked, looking sharply into Bob's face.
"Oh yes." Bob turned the vase over carefully. He held the bottom up and the woman leaned over and looked at it closely.
"It is a Tiffany mark," she said, looking back at the man.
"You said you got it at an estate sale?" the man asked. His face had a serious expression that did not change.
"Yes," Bob said. "Actually, it's an interesting story. I bought it from two sisters who were selling their parents' house. Their father had just passed away. They told me their parents had been collectors; they had a pretty big collection of all kinds of things. They needed to sell it all off. But they told me this particular vase, their parents bought on their first trip antiquing together, on their honeymoon. After his wife passed away, their father kept it because it reminded him of her. It reminded him of their honeymoon."
The woman looked back at the man and smiled. "That's such a good story. That's romantic. It's like it was a symbol of their love." She looked at the vase with renewed interest. The man shrugged. He may have smiled a little.
"Exactly!" Bob said, enthusiastically. "It's so romantic. It has a great story to go with it. Really, one of a kind."
The lady gave a hard look at the vase. She smiled. "I like it," she said. "I like the story." Then she looked back at the man.
"How much do you want for it?" he asked, matter of fact.
Bob put the vase carefully back onto the table. "Well, it's a Tiffany, and it is a one of a kind piece. And it has a great story to go with it. You won't find another one quite like it. I've got a thousand dollars on it."
The man shook his head. "That's steep," he said. "A thousand dollars." He did not take his hands out of his pockets.
The lady took a deep breath. "It is a Tiffany," she said to the man. "It's a one of a kind piece. And I like it."
The man thought for a moment. "Would you take $500 for it?"
Bob shook his head. "Oh no. It's worth a lot more than that. You just don't find pieces like this."
"What about $600 cash?" the lady said.
Bob laughed. "Cash? No. I really couldn't take less than a thousand for it. I take credit cards." He looked at the man.
The lady shrugged. "It's steep, but it's worth it, I think. It's a Tiffany."
The man twisted his face, wryly. "Alright," he said, taking his hands out of his pockets. "You've got me. The lady likes it."
Bob laughed, picking up the vase. "You have a good eye," he said to the lady.
Bob wrapped it up for them and they carried out to their car. "That was some story, about the man and his wife that used to have it," the lady said, as they got into their car.
"It was a lot of money we paid for it," the man said, starting the car. "Maybe we could tell that story to the people up at the Antiques Extravaganza. We'll have to play it up to make anything on it."
"Don't worry," the lady said. "It's a Tiffany. It'll be a good investment."
This seems like a simple story. But what's really going on here? As the Tiffany vase passes on from George and Arlene and into this antique shop, and on to the two dealers, we see their life, the moments of romance in it and the happiness they shared, symbolized in this one vase, reduced to the mundane bargaining between people for whom it means nothing more than money. And we have to ask ourselves; how much of our own lives is like this, sitting on our shelves, hanging on our walls, in this day and age, and what will become of all these little parts of our lives when we are gone? How much will we too be reduced to an exchange, and the happiest moments of our lives, symbolized in our little treasures, be lost to the sales slips? I wanted to keep a Spartan style, with dialogue and hand gestures liberally used, to indicate the psychology behind the actions, the inner souls of the characters. This is very much in the vein of Raymond Carver and his grim, taciturn view of the hollowness of modern life. estory
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