My father had a man called Johnny who came every week to polish all the brass in our house.
Even the brass doorsill got Johnny’s expert care so that it gleamed up at every visitor. What I wouldn’t give to bring that nice smiling man back to work in my house.
Alas, there’s only me.
Even my cleaning woman, a whiz with silver, balks at polishing brass.
Sighing, I get out the rubber gloves, Brasso and cloths.
There’s a big plate, two brass candlesticks and the tops of the fire tools that need attention.
I’ve cheated on some things like the lamps in the upstairs hall. I took those to the nice man in Torrance who gives them back all shiny and what’s more than lovely shine never dims? Yippee!
So I shake my head as I start in on the big brass plate.
Why do I need this? We don’t eat off it or serve food on it; it’s just decorative. I guess it’s the memory of my dad who was an interior decorator and who, I think, bought the plate that spurs me on.
The brass andirons that used to gleam so proudly are now dark with smoke. In his day, my husband used to take them out to the workshop and somehow get all the grime off them, but that’s no longer an option and those andirons are going to be dim and dimmer from now on.
I doubt many people on the West coast find themselves enthralled with antique possessions like me.
After all, when those wagons were creaking to California and hit the mountain ranges, people threw out clocks and yes, candlesticks to lighten the load and help the poor beasts who strained under the weight.
But my stuff came down through a New England family and, until I made a renegade move to Palos Verdes, had just moved from Massachusetts to Connecticut and New Jersey.
Now I’m rubbing a spot on the brass plate and cursing.
Really it’s not how I want to spend this sunny day when there’s a bird feeder to be filled and roses to cut. Yet, here am I like some drudge out of Dickens, rubbing and rubbing a spot that won’t go away.
I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the less these possessions mean to me.
My grandfather came from Milton, Mass and I’ve kept several leather bound books of Milton history. But the only time I’ve been to that town was to take my parents' ashes to the Milton cemetery. While there, I looked in the local phone book to see if any Pierce family was still in residence, as my grandfather was one of eight children.
Not a Pierce remained, so why would my California grandchildren care about Milton?
Luckily for me, my three children have expressed keen interest in my unfashionable “brown” furniture, which you can hardly give away these days. I don’t know what they will do with the family portraits lining the staircase.
The youngest grandchild once brought some Indian Guide friends up to see our attic, a rarity in Palos Verdes.
The boys were so spooked by all those ancient portraits, they were shaking by the time they opened the door into the attic.
One looked around at the sheeted furniture and dusty books and gasped, “What is this? 1492?”
Grumbling and rubbing the old plate, I realize if I moved into a senior residence like so many of my friends, I’d have to get rid of all this bothersome stuff.
So, I grit my teeth and rub harder. For now, I guess I’ll keep on polishing brass.