When Nana found an apartment, a Harlem Co-Op on 147th Street with a southern view from the twenty-first floor that encompassed the Harlem River, Central Park, the Empire State Building and Riverside Church, she was quite pleased with her find. She was less pleased when her cousin Monica (whom we call Aunt Bee) moved into the very same apartment complex, two buildings over, on the twenty-third floor, in an apartment with the exact same floor plan!
Nana, not to be outdone, consoled herself with decorating. She found the perfect sofa - an eight foot Baker beauty, upholstered in a salmon damask print. Everything was ready for the delivery. Nana, and my older brother, Paul, were there awaiting the sofa’s arrival.
The delivery men arrived and were able to get the sofa off of the truck, into the building and to the elevator with minimal fuss. The real test was the elevator. Try as they might, eight feet of sofa couldn’t fit into seven and one-half feet of elevator.
The sofa had to be walked up twenty-one flights of stairs.
Once the delivery men got the sofa inside and set it up, Nana thanked them profusely for their hard work and fed them a splendidly prepared meal. After the meal, she let them know she was refusing delivery, because the sofa was damaged. The plastic wrapping surrounding the sofa ripped on the way up, and the sofa had either a stain or perhaps a small tear. Paul (who was 12 at the time) was hiding in the bedroom because he knew Nana was refusing delivery and he couldn’t bear to watch. Nana never rose her voice, but she wasn’t a woman you crossed. The men had no choice.
The sofa was taken down the same tweety-one flights of stairs that afternoon, and another sofa was re-ordered, from Baker. A seven foot model that fit in the elevator.
Note: If this story seems remarkable to you, consider that this took place in 1963. A black woman in her 50’s knew her rights as a consumer and wouldn’t let anything stand in the way of her claiming those rights; not her grandson, the delivery men or twenty-one flights of stairs.