Mrs. Lovelock And The Iroquois Blanket
When the Antiques Caravan came to town
“Boy, I think my five year old could do better than these figures,” said the Antiques Caravan Anonymous Appraiser, eyeing the textile. “Tell us again how you came to have this piece.”
“Well, all I can say is that family lore says this blanket was a gift to my great great, great, great grandfather from one of the chiefs of the Six Nations of the Iroquois as a symbol of friendship and peace. It’s been in our family as long as anyone can remember,” said Mrs. Geraldine Lovelock, a spunky grandmother from upstate New York who was attired in leggings and a beret.
“Really?” There was no missing the acerbic edge of skepticism in the Appraiser’s tone. The Appraiser was dressed like a carnival barker in a checkered suit and bowler hat with his features obscured by a Victorian half-face cardboard mask.
“Yes, well, that’s what I’ve always been told,” said Mrs. Lovelock, looking slightly abashed.
“One thing we find quite often here on the Antiques Caravan is that family lore is often just that, sweet fairy tales told by one’s parents without much substance. Empty inheritance calories if you will. Were you hoping this bit of weaving was worth a night out anyway?” The Anonymous Appraiser sounded solicitous through his unctuousness.
Mrs. Lovelock tucked a bit of gray frizz on her forehead back under the beret. “Oh, we would never part with it,” she said. “The sentimental value, you know.”
The Appraiser rubbed his gloved fingers together, miming money. “Yes, yes, we know all about it. There’s sentiment, and then there’s value and seldom the twain do meet. It’s that time, we have come down to it now, Mrs. Lovelock. Let’s ask the folks here whether they think your family relic is Rubbish or Reward.”
The Antiques Caravan Anonymous Appraiser turned to the studio audience and said “You know how we do this. How many of you think this moth-eaten bit of wool is Rubbish?” He pointed to a display wire on which hung a faded red blanket with primitive woven renditions of animals and some vaguely humanoid characters.
Approximately 70% of the audience raised placards with the side showing a cartoon trash can while the remainder picked the depiction of a gleaming diamond ring on the opposite side. Competing yells of “Rubbish!” and “Reward!” reverberated throughout the space, although soon there was no doubt that the Rubbish proponents were carrying the day.
“Oh my, Mrs. Lovelock, I would say the vast majority of our amateur experts think you have brought us a piece of rubbish. What do you say to that?” The Appraiser pushed the microphone towards the contestant, who could only shrug and say “Oh, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
“Would you ever consider selling it, Mrs. Lovelock?” asked the expert. “Because you can sell it off right now if you like. Bids for Rubbish start at $500 on our Auction Roulette Wheel and can go as high as $10,000 dollars. Pretty good for a piece of Rubbish. OR, as you know, you can opt to see what I have written down on my appraisal sheet and keep your heirloom. Or should I say hairyloom? Seems to be a bit of pet hair all over it.”
“Oh, well, my grandson did use it to dry his dog after a wash last week,” confessed Mrs. Lovelock. “He went right into the cedar chest and got it out because he was too lazy to go down into the basement and get towels out of the dryer. My son had a few words with him, I can tell you. Haven’t seen him since and he took the old Wrangler and a shotgun too.”
The Appraiser frowned and then laughed uncomfortably. “Yes, well, let’s stay on topic, what do you say? Is this lovely little lady your investment advisor?” He gestured towards the fidgeting, hair-tugging young teenage girl who stood a few steps behind Mrs. Lovelock.
“Oh, this is Lilac, my granddaughter. They give the kids such crazy names, nowadays, don’t you think? She came with me today because they were doing mold remediation at her school.” Mrs. Lovelock gestured to Lilac to step forward and asked, “What do you think Lac? Should we sell the blanket or do you want it for your own kids in the future?”
“That old thing?” responded Lilac. “I don’t think you could give it away. Even the dog thought it was scratchy. Sell it. You could get me that supersonic hair dryer for my birthday.”
“Dream on, my girl,” said Mrs. Lovelock. “Hundreds of dollars for a curling iron? You might as well wish for a Piper Cub. Ask your mother to forgo a couple of manicures and some of her Merlot budget.” Then, sensing the Appraiser’s growing disapproval and impatience with her segment she added brightly,
“We’ll SELL, Mr. Appraiser.”
The Antiques Caravan Appraiser smiled broadly and went into a rapid fire spiel, “Disclosure: Choosing the wheel is a formal sale to Antiques Caravan for a price between $500 and $10,000 determined purely by chance. Should you choose the appraisal and to keep your item, our evaluation is considered an accurate assessment for insurance purposes but no guarantee of price in a future sale. All transactions are considered final after this point. You always have the option to WALK AWAY right now! Mrs. Lovelock?”
Geraldine Lovelock looked over to where her husband and son were seated off in a special family section of the audience. They were both clearly mouthing the word “Wheel”, by far the most common choice when an item had been adjudged as “Rubbish” by the audience.
“We’ll do the Auction Wheel and Lilac can do the spin,” announced Mrs. Lovelock.
“As you say, so shall it be,” intoned the Appraiser with the audience reciting along. This was his catch phrase and were the words that adorned all the totes and tee-shirts and umbrellas that fans of The Antiques Caravan bought up by the thousands, particularly around the holidays. A large roulette wheel with various dollar amounts was ferried out onto the stage; the payouts ranged from $500 to $10,000 and there were no penalty or punishment slots. Lilac gave the wheel a languid spin with barely enough strength to power a single revolution and the pointer stopped at $1200.
“$1200 for a hair covered doggie dry-off towel! Not a bad day’s work, Mrs. Lovelock! Hold out your hand.”
The giddy grandmother held out her outstretched palms as the host counted out twelve one hundred dollar bills into them. She closed her fists and waved the currency at her husband and son who responded by high-fiving each other and giving her a thumbs up sign.
“Off you go!” said the Appraiser as his assistant appeared to escort Geraldine and Lilac off the stage. “Oh, wait, there is one more thing. Would you like to hear the the insurance value the appraisers arrived at?”
“Sure, why not?’ responded Mrs. Lovelock.
“Well, Mrs. Lovelock, as I suspected, the family story around your hairyloom was completely inaccurate. This is NOT an Iroquois blanket that was given to your multiple greats ancestor.”
The “sad saxophone” sound effect was signaled by the stage manager and Geraldine and Lilac Lovelock hugged and then ineptly fist-bumped each other. The Appraiser turned away from them and walked over to where the faded red blanket was hanging before continuing,
“As a matter of fact, the insurance value was left blank. Do you know why the insurance value was left blank, Mrs. Lovelock?”
The smile was slowly fading from Geraldine Lovelock’s face. She was an avid watcher of the show and recalled this happening only one time before in the show’s history. “Because, because . . .” she started to stammer.
“Because it’s PRICELESS, Mrs. Lovelock! That’s right, priceless, unique, irreplaceable, beyond value. This is the only blanket like it in the entire world. It’s not Iroquois, Mrs. Lovelock, because it predates the Iroquois. The chief who gave it to your ancestor was probably given it from his too-many-greats-to-list grandfather. I can only imagine he parted with it in desperation in order to ensure it’s survival while his own people were being decimated from war and disease. Someone get Mrs. Lovelock a chair.”
Geraldine Lovelock did look like she was about to faint; a stage hand dragged over the reproduction Stickley chair from the previous segment. She collapsed into it and Lilac began fanning her face with the hundred dollar bills.
“All right, while Mrs. Lovelock collects herself, let me continue on about this magnificent piece of the shared history of humankind that hangs in front of us. Not only is this probably the oldest existing textile in the world, it also is a Rosetta Stone to some petroglyphs whose meanings have baffled experts for decades.”
The Anonymous Appraiser, known for his sang froid, looked as though he were in danger of losing his own composure for the first time after hosting the show for twenty-seven years. He took a handkerchief from his inner jacket pocket, lifted his mask, and dabbed at his eyes. The audience gasped. He lowered the mask and proceeded,
“Audience, you were very, very, wrong. Far from Rubbish, this is the greatest Reward in the history of Antiques Caravan. Mrs. Lovelock, the producers had an inkling due to your contestant interview and personality test (not to mention credit rating) that there was a sizable chance that you would opt for the Auction Wheel. Therefore, yesterday, before today’s taping, they reached out to a few movers and shakers. I am happy to announce that a new wing of the Smithsonian is already in the works to house this Treasure.”
There was a commotion in the background and the cameras first covered and then wildly swung away from a stage-hand attempting to resuscitate the New York grandmother with a defibrillator while her husband, son and granddaughter clustered around her.
The cheerful Antiques Caravan theme began playing while the voice-over announcer said, “Join us next week in Pittsburgh,” while the credits rolled.
Author’s note: this episode of Antiques Caravan is the inspiration for the American idiom a “Lovelock Blanket” — an item whose intrinsic value is unrecognized by the owner, as in someone who thinks their ring is cubic zirconia when it’s really a diamond.
©Copyright 2019 Valerie Kittell. All Rights Reserved