The Attic

by

        I remember this space from childhood.  It was shadowy with questions, exciting in my wonder. It smelled of pine and old times. The wooden beams sweated drops of sap in the summer that hardened into amber beads in winter.  I opened trunks and sorted through scalloped bordered black and white photographs of my family, and letters tied in blue ribbons. Their fancy faded script spoke of love and longing, homesickness, missing the taste of pot roast and potato salad, buddies being shot, and cold nights without blankets. The envelopes were white with blue and red stripes. USA Air Mail was stamped across them. The pages were fragile from their unfolding.  The words made me sigh when I read them.

      My grandmother’s wedding dress, nestled in pink tissue, whispered her innocence under my fingers. I pulled apart the translucent paper and touched the white Chantilly lace with a curious index finger. Tiny pearl buttons, like treasures from a jewel box were encircled by loops of satin. I imagined this cloud of femininity wrapped around my small, skinny body.  The gown  transforming me into someone more beautiful than I was. 

      Sometimes, I unwrapped my mother’s china tea set with plates that fit in the palm of my hand. I poured imaginary Earl Gray from a pot with a cracked lid.  “It broke,” my mother told me, “when my cat, Boots, knocked it over a long time ago.”   I could see boots, in all of his black and white finery, come to tea with my mother, the Queen.  Boots wore high top white fancy foot ware for the occasion.  When the dogs arrived, he was frightened away and spilled the tea, upsetting the party, and my mother. 

        I sat under the light of the eaves, turning the pages of old picture books illustrated with exotic orange birds and line drawings of old black men. I explored green jungles, swinging from tree to tree on vines.  Camels carried me to an oasis with a  palm tree and mirror bright water.  Princes kissed me awake and dwarves kept me safe from poisonous apples.  Sometimes I fell down rabbit holes and met smiling cats.  I got lost in time and adventure until my grandpa came looking for me. 

   “Mom, where are you?” 

    “Up here,” I call back.

    The attic stairs squeak under the weight of my son’s feet.  I see him emerge from below.  “Wow,” he says. “This place is a mess.”

       “I know,” I say.

     “Do you remember how much fun I used to have in the attic when I was little?” he asks.

     “Yeah, I remember.”

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