At the same table, Nana Mildred was arranging some heavy glass objects with holes in them. I picked one up. It was pretty, amber swirls in brown glass, but I couldn’t figure out what it was for. I had never seen anything like it. “It’s a flower frog!” exclaimed Nana Mildred. Nana was always incredulous that anyone else didn’t know a fact she herself knew, even if the other person was a child. “For arranging flowers!”
Oh. I put it back on the table. There was also a yellow iridescent bowl; it had a large chip on the bottom, so Nana didn’t think anyone would buy it.
Nearby Mom was struggling with a heavy old comforter, made of scratchy red wool and filled with something lumpy I couldn’t identify. It had been unearthed from the far reaches of Nana’s attic, from locked cupboards I wasn’t allowed to go in. The strange comforter smelled good to me, like Nana’s attic, dusty and ancient and mothballed, a Victorian survivor in the 1970s.
“Oh, that old feather bed,” Nana Mildred said. “It stinks. No one will want that. Just throw it out.” “You never know, someone might want it,” Mom said, and put a price of ten dollars on it. I want it, I thought. But I couldn’t imagine Mom letting me keep the feather bed in my room, anyway.
Dad finished setting up the old crib on the lawn next to the tables just as the first cars pulled in to Nana’s long driveway. “Having an extra crib at a grandmother’s house is really handy,” Mom told the people looking at the crib. “My kids slept in this one but they’re a little old for it now.” She gestured at me and my brother and everyone but me laughed. (Not sociable!) I wandered back to the cottage and flung myself on my bed.
What if no one bought the green dessert set, I thought, staring at the ceiling. Maybe I could ask Nana for it then. It would be nice to have something of my own from Nana’s.
I could hear a lot of voices outside on the lawn. It sounded like many people were showing up for the sale. They might not want the 1940s books or an old feather bed, but if they needed a flower frog, they were in business. It occurred to me that with all the adults occupied, the coast was clear to read a contraband novel. I slid the Judy Blume out from under the table and carefully placed it on the pillow, so that if anyone came in to the room, they couldn’t see the cover.
Later that afternoon, I emerged, blinking, into the sunlight. Down a bit on the lawn, Nana Lulu was seated at a table where Mom was counting bills into a cigar box.
“You’ve made two hundred dollars,” Mom exclaimed to Nana. Nana Lulu thanked her for her hard work and kissed her. She beamed at Mom and Mom smiled back. Dad and my brother were folding up the tables and chairs from the lawn and packing the few unsold items back in boxes. The green glass dessert set was sold and gone, as was the feather bed, so I went back to the cottage to find another book to stick my nose in.
Nana’s house was sold after her death in 1981 when I was sixteen. My mother couldn’t afford to keep it up. Mom left the 1914 trash-picked chair and the colored dishes in the house when it was sold. She said later she couldn’t bear to have the chair Nana always sat in around her house and it didn’t occur to her that anyone would want the dishes. The Swedish embroidery hangs in my mother’s living room near the old Singer, though.
The only thing I have from Nana’s house is the chipped yellow iridescent glass bowl. Nana gave it to me years later. I’ve always yearned to buy the house itself, but it has never been for sale.
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