miss amy's sideboard

Miss Amy smiled up at me. I can remember so vividly how she used to have to smile down at me as she told me enchanting tales of the days of her childhood when she and my grandfather and her older brothers, John and Matthew, had romped through the attic of the old house where I was born. As I grew older, she told me more and more about the year she and my grandfather had been engaged to be married, and of how her mother had broken off the match because she thought that my grandfather would never amount to anything.
This particular morning I had gone down to Miss Amy's to get a recipe that Mother wanted. As usual, she and her house were spic and span, she herself looking as calm and fresh as though she had not been busily cleaning and baking all morning.

"I love that sideboard of yours, Miss Amy," I said strategically, for I knew that there must be some story connected with the massive, marble-topped cupboard standing against the dining-room wall. Every article of furniture in the old house had its own particular history, which Miss Amy was easily persuaded to relate.

"I love it too, child. It belonged to my mother. She promised to give it to the first of her children to marry."

My surprise must have betrayed itself in my face, for she hastened to add,

"I know you're wondering how it came to be mine then, since John and Matthew both were married long ago, and I'm still an old maid, and will be all my life. I'll tell you all about it if you've time to listen."

I insisted that I had absolutely nothing in the world to do but listen, and we sat down opposite each other on two of Miss Amy's stiff-backed chairs, I with one foot swinging and the other under me, Miss Amy very prim and straight, with her little, wrinkled hands folded in her lap. She watched me seriously as she began.

"Matthew was married first, you know. He ran off with the girl who was visiting at Eldred's. They fell in love at first sight--but then I've told you that story before. At any rate, their elopement almost broke poor Mother's heart, but she kept to her promise to give the sideboard to the first of us who was married. She offered it to the young couple, but Hilda wouldn't have it. She was very young, you see, child, very fly away, and very modern. She wanted nothing in her house but the hideous plush stuff that was then in vogue. And so, the old sideboard stayed here in its own environment, where it didn't conflict with any new-fangled arrangements.

"You've heard all about the long courtship between our John and Mary Ingram, too. She was a home-loving, comfortable girl, and by the time they were married they had saved enough to furnish a home substantially as they wanted it. Mary had scarcely a corner where she could put the old sideboard, but she took it because she understood my mother's feelings so well. But often she said to me, 'You're the only one of the whole clan who appreciates this antique of mine, Amy. You ought to have it.'

"And so, when Mother died, leaving the house and furniture to me, John moved the dear old relic back where it belonged. It's been here ever since." She settled back with a sigh, as she always does when she's recalling bits of her past for me.

"And now it's yours for keeps. Aren't you satisfied, Miss Amy?"

"Well, --yes and no, child. There was a time when I thought that maybe it would be mine in my own right, --I mean if I ever married. But when you're old enough to think about such things--"

The bell for my eleven o'clock class saved me. I ran out, first touching her soft cheeks with my lips before she could promise me her sideboard as a wedding gift.

Short fiction by my grandmother, circa 1929.