Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Owls, Punch bowls, and Owls

We drove from Boston to Northern Vermont during another pleasant-but-off-puttingly mild New England winter weekend.  A few towns over the border in southern New Hampshire, we stopped to allow the younger legs to stretch and burn off early morning energy.  An "OPEN" flag outside of an antiques shop looked like a good spot.  We explored the five floors of estate acquisitions the owner had accumulated over several years, getting a sense of his eye and imagining the early morning cold-barn and basement auctions the proprietor had regularly endured to make his inventory possible.

I climbed to the fifth floor and found thousands of little owls of all materials, shapes, sizes, and delicacy.  Thousands.  They were packed from gable to gable and began to creep me out in the cold attic.

I asked the owner and he told me that they were all from a single estate he purchased (!!!) Deeply freaky.

Mrs. called me downstairs to the main floor where she had found a punch bowl with a full set of beautiful glasses.  Small-town New Hampshire prices offered it at $15.  Sold.  Beautifully cut glass and a full regiment of matching glasses.  We had been passively looking for one since 2002, and we were both happy.  Keep reading.

Back into the car and we arrived at noon for a stop over with my Grandparents for lunch.  The epitome of Old World Yankees, our lunch concluded with a fresh apple pie with sharp cheddar slices for a topping.  Children are allowed a la mode, but not the adults.

We leafed through an old photo album from her childhood camp days, when summer camps were populated by groups of boys or girls from the same area, town, street, etc.  Mrs. Kitt knew all of the families in Fairfield and they entrusted their little girls to her each summer.

Mrs. "Kitt" and the dog they all hated.


Before we left, Dearest Nanna told me that she had a small gift for us.

"I've had this punch bowl for decades" she said.

Mrs. and I glanced at each other.

"I just know it will have a good home with you in Boston" she continued, carrying it into the room in both arms.

Another punch bowl.  We had been waiting ten years for the right one to come along, and now we had two... in the same day.

She ground it in further:
"It has about 30 glasses with it, all individual in design, but nearly identical in size.  I spent about thirty years collecting them here and there."

Mrs. and I glanced at each other again.

"To my taste, matching glasses seem a little boring.  Variety is always more interesting."

I inspected them casually.  She was right.


Then we were on to northern Vermont with two punch bowls, two silver ladles, and about 40 glasses in the trunk.  I would later lay on my pillow in our spacious-but-inexpensive Vermont suite and see those thousands of owls staring at me when I closed my eyes.


Important Author's Note.  Please Read.


  1. When it rains it pours, no? Such is the nature of the life of the thrifty and/or cheap.

    Looks like you'll be hosting a rum-punch get together this Summer, with 38 of your closest friends.

  2. The owls are probably like the animal collection in The Glass Menagerie, only instead of representing the owner Laura's withdrawal and inner fragility, the figurines themselves scared off all the visitors.
    --Road to Parnassus

  3. Ebay. Someone will take it off your hands AND pay shipping, no doubt.

    In moments of "like attracts like" surplus, I often think of this moment from Tom Sawyer:

    The truth was, that a superstition of his had failed, here, which he and all his comrades had always looked upon as infallible. If you buried a marble with certain necessary incantations, and left it alone a fortnight, and then opened the place with the incantation he had just used, you would find that all the marbles you had ever lost had gathered themselves together there, meantime, no matter how widely they had been separated. But now, this thing had actually and unquestionably failed. Tom's whole structure of faith was shaken to its foundations. He had many a time heard of this thing succeeding but never of its failing before. It did not occur to him that he had tried it several times before, himself, but could never find the hiding-places afterward. He puzzled over the matter some time, and finally decided that some witch had interfered and broken the charm. He thought he would satisfy himself on that point; so he searched around till he found a small sandy spot with a little funnel-shaped depression in it. He laid himself down and put his mouth close to this depression and called -

    "Doodle-bug, doodle-bug, tell me what I want to know! Doodle-bug, doodle-bug, tell me what I want to know!"

    The sand began to work, and presently a small black bug appeared for a second and then darted under again in a fright.

    "He dasn't tell! So it WAS a witch that done it. I just knowed it."

    He well knew the futility of trying to contend against witches, so he gave up discouraged. But it occurred to him that he might as well have the marble he had just thrown away, and therefore he went and made a patient search for it. But he could not find it. Now he went back to his treasure-house and carefully placed himself just as he had been standing when he tossed the marble away; then he took another marble from his pocket and tossed it in the same way, saying:

    "Brother, go find your brother!"

    He watched where it stopped, and went there and looked. But it must have fallen short or gone too far; so he tried twice more. The last repetition was successful. The two marbles lay within a foot of each other.

  4. *Giuseppe: That is exactly what I'll do. Have your summer clothes ready.

    *Road to Parnassus: You've got it exactly. Imagine entering someone's house on a social call and being greeted by that flock. Worse yet, on a date.

    *JKG: Twain was often hilariously indicting superstition. Imagine if that passage had concluded with Huck surfacing with "Confirmation bias is powerful misleading!"

  5. What am I going to do with all these owls I have been collecting for for the young gentleman?

  6. Offer one of the sets up to the community, like Mister Midwester!
    And what prompted the 'important author's note' at the end of the post?

  7. *Sr.: To borrow a phrase from Nick Charles: In polte society, the owl does not call "Who - who". It instead says "Whom - whom".

    *Nat: I'll probably just serve more punch. The author's note is to differentiate myself from those who conceal their contributors. While I may change names in order to gain permission to share a story, I want to maintain a level of transparency with everyone. I also put it there to ward off offers, which seem to be getting more frequent.

  8. I can picture that collection as the result of a harmless comment, given at an early age, expressing a fondness for owls. A lifetime of unimaginative gift-giving later, you find yourself surrounded by all those staring eyes.

  9. You may end up with some punch offers.

  10. deeply freaky sounds like a village in the cotswolds.


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