What’s clear to me today is that once upon a time I took a mental snapshot and pressed into memory an interior space that I wanted for my own. For starters, the elegant room was accessed by a proper staircase. Concerning arrival the stair steps allowed a glide by way of an accurate tread topped with a smartly carved newel and of course plenty of natural light streaming from two good sized dormers.
A childhood friend introduced me to this attic atop her family’s rambling antique home. We would play up there on rainy days. With props and costumes scattered about, imaginations were easily stoked. Permeated with a bit of chaos, a few ghosts and some danger, there was a solid floor on which to skip about.
The adults never checked on us. It was a beautiful world of nonintervention where our minds unfurled on their own.
Sadly when I grew up there was no dream come true but attics still. All of our houses, grand entrance be damned, included the pull down ladder portal. The flooring was questionable and crawling around was the preferred mode of transportation which I did for decades fully utilizing the hinterlands.
I understand now that putting my dream out there to the universe might have lacked specificity, but confused consideration is owed to my conceptual Father who while designing our house explained, “No extra storage, closets only.”
The theory was if one does not have extra storage (attic, basement, etc.), one would never accumulate excess or as in today’s popular language become a hoarder. But then he could not have imagined a future with the vast mountains of personal bits and bobs and paraphernalia that we amass today; i.e. not the one liquor box of yore filled with holiday decorations but as in the final count which a friend reported: 30 extra large plastic boxes labeled Christmas.
This is not to disparage personal goals, but to explain my conflicting sentiments. My sub-zero attic dream was waylaid into a land of various carved up spaces, warrens scattered throughout the home with flashlights posted and kneepads waiting. Still they each served my soul as glamourous movie-attics stuffed with out of season clothes on racks, dust laden trunks, outdated luggage, art gone uninspired, dismissed tchotchkes (just funky enough for another generation), and heartbreaking collections of ancestor stuff that was passed into hands not brave enough for the task of deletion.
Since the 1980s, explorations to our attic have been non-stop. During the past decade the rapture expressed by grandchildren when the trap door is pulled down prompts storytelling. “What is up there,” they say with hands clasped. “Families of things live up there,” I say remembering the times that I seconded Dalton as he ventured ahead waving a stick-weapon. Bats, rats, mice and definitely squirrels and their relations consider it a terminal.
One winter day as I collected kindling, I heard a crackeee. Looking up I locked eyes with a squirrel peering down at me from our dormer. He shook his fist with a piece of house trim. It had been a tough winter.
Tough indeed and oh so logical to address the increasingly precarious attic in the winter of Covid. I wrestled with vestiges of what was left behind after children, social whirling, household management and the death of parents.
Congratulations to us I told D as I came down the steps for the eleventhy-trillion time. More than 30,000 people die annually in the US from unintentional injuries at home. “I just eliminated a cause of death for us,” I said.
All that remains in mycloud is the wedding veil that I shared with my daughters, bamboo trays for a party of 1,000, a highchair, a terra cotta pumpkin, assorted traps offering cheese or peanut butter, and one tear stained poster of Brad Pitt. As a library type, how I wish that I had logged the parade of things in and out for further study.
“To live, to love, to learn and to leave a legacy,” so said Stephen Covey. If only the self study via material things had been archived, I could have captured the sort of therapy that money cannot buy.
I have come to believe that the attic is our subconscious made visible. An episode lingers in mythical majesty. Behind a bed upstairs is a wall that also fronts a long column of floored attic. After my Mother passed on to another land, I stashed an assortment of her uncompleted handmade projects. Many years later I began to uncharacteristically awaken at 2:00 a.m.
It came to me that the bed headboard was literally touching the attic space of her forgotten needlework allotment. In a flash I saw her with eyebrow raised, “Deal with it,” she said. I did and have slept ever since. Sorting out the symbolic reaps. Debunking an attic can be sacred; one story at a time.
My final chore was to find a home for giant baby dolls who rested on rafters. A doll hospital in Illinois will accept them for rehab and placement with children who are waiting. Those babes were posted not for the landfill but for another child, another attic.
The grandeur of a way station called the attic quietly giveth.