As a child, there was a store that was situated within walking distance of my home. It was called the Now and Then Shop. My mother and I would spend Saturdays going to flea markets and antiques stores. By the time I was eleven years old, I felt confident as a shopper. For months, I had my eye on the Now and Then Shop. My mother didn’t feel there would be much of interest for us. We sought antique lamps, chairs, tables. One afternoon, I snuck out, on my own, with my wallet in my back pocket. I biked the short distance to The Now and Then Shop. To get there, I had to pass through The Martha’s Vineyard Methodist Campground. They had strict rules about riding bicycles in designated areas. I had to hop off and on my bicycle, walking, riding, walking until I arrived at the shop. I looked through the goods on the first floor. There were large items, things my mother might have enjoyed. Desks, wicker furniture, fireplace tools. The shopkeeper must have read my disappointment. She asked, “Have you seen upstairs?” Upstairs was a place accessed by a set of fire escape stairs added to the building as an afterthought.
I was thrilled to find more than I ever imagined. There were hand mirrors, bed pans, antique irons, Victorian collectibles of all varieties. With $2.70 of the three dollars I had with me, I bought a small wall-hanging with a poem on it. I was glowing with pleasure when I took home my treasure. When we read the poem together, my mother’s face lit up. I looked as her with a question in my face. Her eyes teared up, then she cleared her throat. “That poem was Big Nana’s favorite poem. It was a popular saying when she was a young woman in the 1880’s. She would recite it often.”
A wise old owl sat in an oak,The more he heard the less he spoke,The less he spoke, the more he heard,Why aren't we like that wise old bird? Anonymous
That little gem hangs in my closet so that I see it every day.
About forty years later, the antique business had given way to one after another business. I did not step back into the store until the day I saw a sign for the newest enterprise, L’Elegance. In one of the front windows, there was a bed displayed with fine linens and seaside treasures. The other front window held a bureau with table linens artfully spilling out of the drawers. Wooden bowls and crystal glassware were displayed along with playful elements such as a shell, a bud vase with a flower in it. Looking into the store, it was dark, but I glimpsed a long, silk robe. The transformation of the place could not have been more complete. When I pulled open the door and stepped inside, I was wrapped in an enticing floral and spicy fragrance that seemed to rise from a tray of perfume bottles. A woman welcomed me. I apologized for wearing a sundress over my bathing suit. I felt underdressed. She put me completely at ease. Our conversation was pleasant. I shared my recollections with her. I told her how lovely it was to see the space used in this way. I can vaguely recall buying some napkins.
The next summer, I went to the store to see what new and appealing items she had added to her inventory. It was good to see her. Instead of small pleasantries she said, “I’m so glad to see you. I have been waiting for you to return.” I stammered, confused.
“Wait just a minute, I have something out back....” Her voice trailed off as she disappeared into the back recesses of the store. When she came back, she was holding a wrapped present. She extended if to me and said simply, “For you.”
With her urging, I pulled on the ribbon. “I wanted you to have this.” Inside, was the sign for the Now and Then Shop.