Things Remembered

by

The existence of Things Remembered is spread by word of mouth because it sits off the main road, three miles from town, next to the old boarded up Greenwood School and across the paved road from the square, cinderblock post office. The building was a general store in the 1930’s and ‘40’s. Worn pine board steps lead up to a long covered porch. It stretches across the front of the wood-sided structure.

An old bedstead, seven rickety and broken apple boxes, a Radio Flier wagon, missing its back right wheel and some of its letters to rust, and an orange and white Gulf sign from a closed service station, all clearance items, sit outside, stacked and forlorn, leaning their rusted bodies against each other, trying to look salable. Silver tinsel is laced through the junk. A life-size cardboard cutout of Santa smiles next to the front door. The jolly man’s coat buttons strain with his girth. He looks happy though, holding his green-gloved hand up, pointing an index finger, like he wants to interrupt a visitor to announce his Christmas secret. His pack of presents rests between black boots. The doll peeking over the top of the bag is missing her smile; it’s smudged away with age.

The door to the shop has one of those brass handles with a thumb-push latch, polished shiny from use. A bell tinkles above the door and the warmth generated by a cast iron woodstove squatting in the floor, greets the visitor before the saleslady behind the counter has an opportunity.

“Come on in,” she says looking up from her work. “It’s cold out there.”

“Thanks, it feels good in here,” the last-minute shopper says.

This store isn’t crowded like the mall. The latest technological gadgets are not found here. Bing Crosby croons from the CD player on the counter. There is no bustle, no artificially sprayed scent of holiday baking or forest pine. This place smells of dust and old stories. Nothing new is sold here, just nostalgia shelved and labeled with tags baring a price and the initials of each antique dealer.

“Anything I can help you find?”

“No I’m just looking. Some people are so hard to buy for. I was hoping for last minute inspiration.”

“Let me know if I can help you. I’ll be here working on my Christmas cards.”

“Thanks.”

The store is divided into separate booths, each arranged differently. The ones decorated as particular rooms draw the shopper. One corner booth is set up like a kitchen. It reminds her a little of her Grandmother’s. The kitchen table is different, the dishes too, but the cake stand is familiar. She reaches a finger out to touch the glass stand, remembering the cake from her eighth birthday, chocolate, with nine pink candles, one extra to grow on. She had blown them out with one breath. Everyone clapped. Her Grandmother would be ninety-one now.

A little further on, she spies an enamel chamber pot. It has a red ring, just like the one her mother told the story about. Two sisters, sent to town to buy it, neither wanting to carry it to the car, for embarrassment. Her mother drew the short straw and huffed out of the store, hurrying down the street. She tripped, jarring the top loose. It rolled half a block, her sister chasing it down, turning as red as the ring. The shopper stifles a giggle, remembering her mother’s own laugh.

In the very back room of the antique shop, the girl catches the glint of an aluminum Christmas Tree from the 60’s. Its shiny silver branches sparkle with reflection. Some years ago, when she asked her mother what became of a similar tree they had at home, her mother said, “That tacky thing?” It hadn’t seemed tacky at the time. It was the most beautiful tree the girl had ever seen. She remembers blue glass ornaments on the tree from her childhood. Multi-color decorations hang on this one.

The vendor decorated this stall as if Santa had just emptied his bag. A Lionel train chugs around the base of the tree. A curly haired doll sips tea from a china set on a miniature table. A red Radio Flier wagon with all its wheels and lettering, holds a stuffed bear, lion and tiger, all friends, anxiously awaiting Christmas morning. A bright yellow ball and a red book, round out the toys. The vendor even left a plate of sweets for Santa. The girl picks up the shiny red book. It is The Night Before Christmas, just like the one she had at home, the one her mother read to her on Christmas eve. She opens the book to an inscription: Little One, May all your Christmases be Merry and Bright. With Love, Mama and Daddy. She stands and reads the book, cover to cover, remembering. The price tag reads, $2.99 sc.

“Find what you were looking for?” the saleslady asks.

“Sure did,” she says, paying for the book.

“You have a Merry Christmas,” the saleslady says.

“I will. You do the same.”

A man opens the door. He’s holding a cardboard box of attic finds. He smiles and holds the door open as the shopper leaves. She looks at the man, thanks him for his courtesy and glances at the contents of his crate. Peeking over the edge is a doll like the one in Santa’s pack by the front door. She notices that this doll has her smile intact.

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2 Responses to “Things Remembered”

  1. curly Says:

    Delightful, Train. What a cool little site. You are so prolific I’ve been unable to keep up with you at the kitchen, much less here. Had to check it out.

    Are the curly haired doll, bear, lion, tiger, bright yellow ball and red book metaphors for anybody you know?

    Been crazy busy. It is good. But I want to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas, love, luck and all the Best. Thanks for your friendship and the wonderful stories, and what I have learned from them.

    Your compatriot,
    Steven

  2. trainswhistle Says:

    Many thanks Steven, and right back at ya! -tw

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