Mary Grimm ~ 17 Things That Were in the Front Room of the Old House, Some of Which No Longer Exist, and Some Which Remain in Changed Circumstances

1. The hard­back book, The Old Man and the Boy, by Robert Ruark – red and white cov­er, set on an end table by the rock­er in the front room, next to a brass lamp with a parch­ment lamp­shade imprint­ed with maple leaves.

2. The rock­er, the Boston rock­er, mom called it: black with gold leaves paint­ed on it. You could see out of the win­dow through the rungs, a view of our neighbor’s porch and Mapledale Ave.

3. Dad’s chair: low, uphol­stered in fab­ric with a small flo­ral print. It once had a foot­stool, now extinct. The arm­rests had wood­en ends: I remem­ber putting my fin­gers on them, feel­ing the spaces between the raised bits like claws. It faced the din­ing room.

4. The big win­dow looked out onto the porch and the front yard where there was a maple tree. Mom made the cur­tains, a brown­ish flower pat­tern on satiny cot­ton. (I still have them, stashed in my linen clos­et.) Once, as pun­ish­ment for run­ning off with Warren Beecher, I looked out this win­dow all day, a child prisoner.

5. The couch, on the west wall: dark green. We sat on it to watch TV. We were watch­ing a movie about Australia, with Peter Lawford (relat­ed by mar­riage to the Kennedys) while we wait­ed for Dad to come back from Germany.

6. Piano, Acrosonic: on the north wall. Music on the stand: Czerny, which I hat­ed. The piano bench had a green vel­vet cov­er. Each leg of the piano bench rest­ed in a round, rub­ber, hock­ey-puck-like thing, to pro­tect the rug.

7. Display cab­i­net over piano, glass front­ed, with a lat­tice, to dis­play mom’s Royal Doulton fig­urines, nine of them, sev­er­al of char­ac­ters from Dickens, which I found creepy.

8. Sconces, two, on either side of the cab­i­net. The can­dles they held were pale lavender.

9. End table by couch: square, pat­terned leather top. On it was a lamp with a silk shade and a dozen pris­mat­ic chan­de­lier drops (now sit­ting on the cedar chest in my hall). The lamp was accom­pa­nied by three ivory fig­ures brought back from India by my Uncle Harry: a man in a tur­ban, an ele­phant, and a third that I can’t remember.

10. Painting over the couch: a land­scape, show­ing some gloomy woods and a bridge.

11. The door next to the couch led to the front hall and was rarely used. In the hall there were a table and a mir­ror. I once faint­ed when I was stand­ing and look­ing out of the front door (from grow­ing too fast, the doc­tor said).

12. The wall­pa­per: pale green with gold medallions.

13. The car­pet: gray, with a sub­tle incised pattern.

14. The red chair: a wing chair, uphol­stered in a pale red satiny mate­r­i­al. A com­pa­ny chair, not for chil­dren. I remem­ber Uncle Harry sit­ting there at a par­ty once, smok­ing a cigar

15. Small round table next to the red chair, now at my sister’s house.

16. Bookcase next to the red chair on the west wall. Doors inset with met­al net­ting pro­tect­ed thir­ty-odd books: Readers Digest Condensed, War and Peace, Good Stories (a stern­ly moral­is­tic col­lec­tion). I had read all of these except for War and Peace by the time I was eleven, includ­ing the some­what sexy con­densed nov­el, The Winthrop Woman, by Anya Seton. I attempt­ed War and Peace more than half a dozen times before I man­aged to fin­ish it some­time in my twenties.

17. The wood­en fig­ure of a woman mak­ing lace on top of the book­case, which I dust­ed many times (every Saturday from ages sev­en to sev­en­teen). Now, after an acci­dent, only the head remains.

Mary Grimm has had two books pub­lished, Left to Themselves (nov­el) and Stealing Time (sto­ry col­lec­tion) — both by Random House. Her sto­ries have appeared in The New Yorker, Antioch Review, and the Mississippi Review, as well as in a num­ber of jour­nals that pub­lish flash fic­tion. Currently, she is work­ing on a his­tor­i­cal nov­el set in 1930s Cleveland. She teach­es fic­tion writ­ing at Case Western Reserve University.