Sunday, November 19, 2006

The attic

I grew up in only one house, the small one my mother still lives in. One of my favorite places to go was the attic. The only way to get to the attic was through a set of pull-down steps, which were located in the hall ceiling. One pull of the cord, and the metal steps released their full length with loud clangs that could be heard anywhere in the house. Once they were secure on the hall floor, we could gingerly make our way up to the chamber of secrets.

The attic was basically our only storage space, so you never knew what you would find there. We went up there to get Christmas stuff down every year, but sometimes we just went up to explore. Only the center of the floor had flooring on it; the sides underneath the rafters just had insulation. I remember when someone - I can't recall who, but Joy would remember, I'm sure - stepped too far off the side and made a hole in the den room ceiling. Add to that limitation, the roof height was short, so mobility up there was rather tricky.

The star of the attic was Mother's cedar chest. There she kept the things she cherished. Our first locks of hair, some baby clothes, and other treasures that spoke of a life filled with love and happy memories. I remember the lovely cedar smell that permeated the air whenever we opened the chest.

When we went up to the attic to retrieve summer clothes, it always made me feel strange to be able to see the Christmas stuff nearby. Back then, you didn't see Christmas stuff in the stores starting in the summer, and usually not even before Thanksgiving. It was a little jarring to be going up there for shorts and T-shirts, when just a few feet away lay a Christmas card holder and tree ornaments. When one is a child, anything associated with Christmas is imbued with some sort of magic. It was not an ordinary time of year, and everything connected to Christmas was not ordinary either. Even up in the attic, I viewed the Christmas stuff with awe.

As I got older, my interest in the attic contents switched from old toys and baby hair to Daddy's papers. He kept old magazines and newspapers, speeches he had given, letters he had written, old books, and all sorts of other goodies that piqued my interest. I can vividly remember spending long periods of time sitting in the attic, right at the top of the steps, browing through all this old stuff.

These memories came back yesterday when Ed and I went to our new house. The workers haven't done anything for a week because of the heavy, steady rains we have been having. The ground is too muddy and soft to allow trucks to come in. The well, which was scheduled to be dug last week is still absent, and granite countertops are not there, the siding is noticeably missing, etc. But it was the first beautiful day in over a week, so we decided to drive to Hancock and take a look around the house.

We will have an attic when we move. Ed made sure to specify that the attic should be completely floored. Yesterday was a perfect time to see it, since we were there during daylight hours (the house has no electricity yet). We pulled the cord and down came the row of wooden steps. Going up wasn't a problem. I couldn't believe how large the attic was. It was the length and width of the house and completely floored. How exciting! What storage possibilities! What magical things will be stored in this mysterious place? Will our grandchildren consider it a place of treasures?

I can't quite make my way up and down the tiny steps as nimbly as I used to when I was a girl. But the enchantment of the attic for me has stayed intact and strong. Now my challenge is to balance the anticipation of having an attic again with the tiny warning in my brain reminding me it is dangerous to have too much available storage space when one's goal is to downsize!

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