Wednesday, July 25, 2012
A New Beginning
Emma Patterson works for the Greensboro Weekly News and Record. Greensboro is a small Community located on the shores of Lake Greensboro. Emma’s position with the paper is a jack of all trades with only herself and the editor, Mr. Harvey Wilson. Mr. Wilson is a crotchety old man and doesn’t see any reason to update his equipment or expand the paper to include anything but the fishing report and his editorial which is often the combined opinion of his fishing and checker playing cronies as they while away the hours at their favorite fishing spot or playing checkers by the pot belly stove in Patterson’s General Store. Emma is gathering advertising orders for this week’s edition. One request is announcing the sale of the Looking Back Antique Shop in Camden Corners. Something in that ad makes Emma stare at it again and again. A feeling of deja vu comes over her. The strange thing is that Emma has never been to Camden Corners. Emma has always enjoyed shopping for antiques, As a little girl she often joined her grandfather on trips to the country when one of the old timer’s belongings were put on the auction block for payment of back taxes or because the owner had passed on. Emma always felt a sadness as she walked through the old houses and barns knowing in her young heart that someone had been forced to give up their special things. Grandpa Amos sympathized but told her the treasures would give pleasure to someone new for many years to come. Grandpa owned the general store in Greensboro and the building it was in. The entire upstairs and most of the attic and basement were filled with treasures he had accumulated through the many years of his scavenger hunts. For several years he had a very active business going but as his health started to deteriorate and his mind wasn’t quite as sharp as it once had been. Grandpa seemed to buy more items than he was able to sell. With Emma’s keen eye, she was able to discern the valuable items from the junk. Grandpa refused to admit that he would ever buy something that held no value so everything stayed put and even the fine furniture, lamps and vases were hidden beneath a layer of dust and junk.
It was nearing the end of March during an early spring snowstorm when Grandpa took his last breath. Emma was sad but she knew Grandpa was in a better place and would be reunited with his beloved wife, Flora. After the memorial service, the townspeople met at the General Store with everyone bringing their favorite dishes. Music was playing in celebration of life that was fitting for the jolly fellow who loved a bargain.
Emma hadn’t thought much about what was going to happen to the store or the building her grandfather had left behind much less the contents. Mr. Wilson pulled Emma aside and informed her that he held the deed on the property and he would be taking possession of the entire building the following Monday. Emma couldn’t believe her ears. This was Grandpa’s store, he had built it with his own hands from the ground up. He and Grandma had lived in the quarters above the store from the first day they had become husband and wife. Mr. Wilson, with a smirk on his face showed Emma the deed that was signed over to him just a week before. Emma knew Grandpa wasn’t thinking clearly but didn’t realize the extent of his deterioration. The document was signed and sealed and the witnesses included the names of Mr. Wilson’s checker playing friends. Emma recalled overhearing Mr. Wilson ordering several new and very expensive fishing poles in the last few weeks. Now she knew who the recipients of those fishing poles were. Mr. Wilson also told Emma that the contents of the building must be moved out by 8:00 on Monday or everything would be destroyed and she would be paying the cost of the removal.
Emma’s mind was racing. How would she be able to move everything from this building in just a few days and what would she do with it? Her dear friend Lily Kramer was helping clean up the last of the remains of the party and noticed Emma’s ashen face. Emma told Lily what had happened and her friend was ready with a solution. Lily’s Uncle Jonas lived on a farm just outside of Greensboro. He was in the process of selling off the farm animals before he and his wife Ethel retired from the farming business and moved to Camden Corners to be closer to their daughter Susanna and their grandchildren. There were several empty barns and Lily was certain her Uncle, a very generous fellow, would be happy to let her store the items in the barns.
Nettie Dawson happened to overhear the conversation. She knew what Mr. Wilson was capable of and wasn’t surprised that he had taken advantage of Grandpa Amos and was now taking advantage of Emma. Nettie gathered up the remaining townsfolk and came up with a plan. Tomorrow morning, as soon as the sun was up everyone would load up their wagons with everything in the store that wasn’t nailed down and deliver it to the farm. Seth Greenfield was already on his way to the Fulbright farm to inform Jonas what was going to be taking place. Not surprisingly, the Fulbrights opened their barns and their arms to help Emma out of the mess she was in. Emma would also be without living quarters and Ethel Fulbright was busy dusting her daughter’s old room so that Emma would have a place to sleep.
The next morning the town was a bustle of activity as the shelves of the store were cleared, the living quarters emptied and all the treasures Amos had stored were removed and placed carefully on one wagon after another. After each wagon made its delivery, they came full circle and reloaded. Nettie supervised the whole process and by late afternoon, everything was out of the building including a stray peanut that had fallen behind the counter.
Emma was very grateful to her friends for all of their help but felt a sadness when she walked around Grandpa Amos’ store for the last time. It was time to move on though and on her way out of the store she noticed a copy of the Greensboro Weekly sitting on the bench just outside the door. Without thinking, she picked up the paper and realized she would now be out of a job because there was no way she would be able to work for that curmudgeon again.
Lily was waiting to drive Emma in her horse and buggy to her temporary home on the Fulbright farm. All of her friends from Greensboro were at the farm with tables of food set up in one corner of the only barn that wasn’t filled with items from Grandpa’s building. Mr. Warren was there to greet Emma and let her know that he would be buying all of the merchandise from Grandpa’s store. He thought she might like to keep the old cash register as a memento. He paid her generously for his purchases. No one knew that Grandpa had helped him out of several jams through the years when things weren’t going smoothly for him. Emma was learning more about her Grandfather’s generosity every day and realizing what a truly remarkable man he had been. When she was afraid he was taking advantage of people who were losing their homes, he was actually paying more money for their belongings than they were worth. So many families had benefited from him buying their treasures and adding a bit extra to the purchase price enabling them to settle with their debtors. In helping out Emma, half the town was showing their gratitude to her Grandpa and the other half simply liked Emma and old Amos. Soon after most of the guests had departed for home, Emma walked Lily to her buggy in order to get the overnight bag she had packed. Lily picked up the forgotten newspaper, it slipped out of her hand and opened to the ad Emma had placed regarding the sale of the Antique Shop in Camden Corners. Emma and Lily looked at each other and knew at that moment that they would be on their way to Camden Corners in the morning.
It was a crisp day. Emma and Lily were on their way to Camden Corners to check out the Antique Store that was for sale. They were both full of anticipation and in their hearts they knew this venture would be a turning point in their lives. Emma was grieving for her grandfather and Lily was searching for adventure. Being Emma’s friend for all of her 22 years she had tagged along on enough of Grandpa’s treasure finds that she was able to spot a genuine antique when she saw one. She didn’t realize this at the time, but she had seen some beautiful pieces of furniture being transported from the old general store in Greensboro to the Fulbright farm and instinctively knew that some of those items were valuable. Lily had a good head for business and was the head of new accounts at the Community Savings Bank. She wasn’t unhappy in her job but she was looking for a little more excitement than she was finding in Greensboro. She found herself restless and dreaming of hopping a freight car and traveling out west to discover gold. She knew this wasn’t going to happen but it was fun to dream. Young women her age didn’t seek adventure, they were happy to settle down with a kind man and give her life to caring for him and raising his children. It wasn’t that she was lacking male attention. She had several would be beaus but none of them were of interest to Lily. Emma on the other hand wasn’t looking for adventure. She was happiest when she was scouring the vacated buildings and homes near the river. The spring floods and lack of work had driven most of the river dwellers from their sparse homes. Because they would leave in a hurry thanks to Mr. Harvey Wilson who was always at their door looking for his rent money, they would leave behind some of their most prized possessions. Emma would gather up all she could find and bring them home with her posting a note by the post office window in case one of the vagabonds happened to see it and wanted to claim their forgotten items.
The ladies finally arrived in Camden Corners and both were enchanted with the quaint village at first sight. Emma spotted the antique shop and knew this was her destiny. They hopped out of the buggy and gingerly approached the front door. Within a couple of minutes, a petite lovely woman who was obviously with child greeted them. She introduced herself as Edwina Van Dyke, sole proprietor of Looking Back Antique Shop. She invited the girls into the shop. They were overjoyed at first sight. Miss Edwina Smythe had owned the shop for 15 years after her parents had passed on and she was beginning to feel as though she was one of the antiques she was always trying to sell. It was in early January of the previous year when Mr. Wallace Van Dyke entered her store to purchase a settee for his ailing mother. Edwina and Wallace were immediately smitten with each other. Wallace sought out Miss Edwina’s only remaining male relative, her Uncle Clarence, and asked if he may be allowed to court the fair Miss Edwina. They were united in marriage on Valentine’s Day and the following month Edwina was expecting their first child. Edwina’s inventory was somewhat diminished as she had other things on her mind. She was willing to sell the building and all of it’s contents for a price that was well within Emma and Lily’s budget and before they left the store, they had reached an agreement. Emma and Lily were beside themselves with excitement. Both knew they had taken a risk but both felt it was a risk worth taking.
Everything happened quickly after that. Edwina was anxious to finalize the sale of the shop in order to be home to await the birth of her baby. Emma and Lily were anxious to start their business. They were delighted with the design of the store. The shop had a bay window with ample room for several small tables that would be perfect for serving dainty desserts and sweets with a cup of tea in the afternoon. The girls toiled all through the summer into the fall fixing up the shop just the way they wanted it with new wallpaper and sparkling woodwork, new fixtures and an intimate, cozy tea room. They had arranged with Diana of Warm Hearth Bakery and Maddie from Tempting Treats Candies, who were delighted the girls chose their establishments, to provide sweets for their customers. After the shop was just the way they wanted it, they started making daily trips to Greensboro to select pieces from Amos’ collection. They were surprised to discover a beautiful mahogany Chippendale dining set, several Louis Phillipe fruit wood chairs and a Gothic revival tapestry settee. They cleaned and polished each piece lovingly and were rewarded with the beautiful results. There were full sets of Mason dishes in the Belvedere pattern, several sterling silver cigarette cards, an 18K Fusee pocket watch, every box and crate seemed to hold something unusual and valuable.
Uncle Jonas had been a farmer all his life but his hobby was repairing and refurbishing furniture. Ethel was an excellent seamstress and even with her eyesight not what it use to be, she could repair any piece of fabric to make it look like new. They were willing and more than anxious to lend a hand and their expertise as each piece was lovingly repaired and readied for display at the shop. Emma remembered the old cash register Mr. Warren had given her from Grandpa’s store. Emma cleaned and polish the old relic and found that it was a beautiful addition to the counter in the new store. It made her happy to know that a little part of Patterson’s General Store would now be with her in Camden Corners.