Yeah, I'm a sucker for kids. Still, there was something different about this boy. He came into my antiques shop by himself, asked politely if he could look around. He told me his mother was waiting in the car in case I wanted her to come in.
He was only about ten but he walked through the place like a pro. His eyes straight ahead, using only peripheral vision, he didn't linger long on anything. No ooh’s and ah’s from this kid. A pro doesn’t give anything away.
He was all business. His round, expressionless face, resembled a young Karl Rove, I thought, but maybe that was just in hindsight. He spotted the Christmas ornaments. Most of them are the vintage glass ones that sell for just a dollar. I’ve got a lot of them.
"They’re the kind grandma kept wrapped in the attic,' customers feel a need to tell me.
But the kid passed right by those. He headed straight for my prized Victorian ornaments: a hand blown glass bird with long tail feathers; a balloon-shaped glass ball wrapped in wire mesh; a hand-painted, grim-looking doll’s head. These old ornaments aren’t what we think of now as attractive. They are pre-Disney, pre-cute. Some customers even say they are ugly.
“How much for these?” he asked.
I swallowed hard. “Are you looking for a present?" I asked, figuring I'd get to know him a little.
But he didn’t come here to chitchat.
“I just want to know how much” he repeated.
“Well, those go for a lot,” I said. “The best I can do is $20 each.”
I thought that would end it right there. But, without hesitation, he countered, “How about $15? And I’ll take all three.”
My heart sank. That would be such a steal. Besides, when would I find more like them? I wrestled with myself. I finally gave in. I swallowed hard and took his offer. He was just a kid afterall. Maybe he wanted an ornament for each member of his family.
“Get in the spirit!” I said to myself.
Now for the rest of the story:
A neatly dressed woman comes into the shop. She looks around like she's lost. I ask if I can help her. She confides that she has never been in an antiques shop before; she knows nothing about antiques.
"Is this the shop that sells Christmas ornaments?" she asks me.
I tell her yes, but I’ve packed them away. I can get them if she wants to have a look. She says no, she was just wondering if she had the right place.
“I teach fourth grade,” she says. “I have a boy in my class who seems to know a lot about antiques. He reads about them. He brought a reference book to show the class. It was all about Christmas ornaments. I didn’t know there were such books. I was impressed. He told the class how important it is to read and learn. 'You have to know what you’re doing,’ he told them.He knew of a dealer who had her own shop, but didn't know what she had.
'I bought three really old Christmas ornaments from her. They were half of book value, a real steal.'
The teacher finished her story.
"I was wondering," she said, “Is this the shop?”
Well what could I say? I had to admit it. I tried to save face, gave her my side of the story:
I’m a sucker, for kids, that's all. And it was Christmas.