"Watch your heads, and sit down over there," said Grandma, motioning to a large trunk beneath the musty slants of the attic eaves. And then the storytelling began....

Antiques were folded into dusty boxes around us, their significance left unlabelled but for Grandma's remembering tales. I listened to the stories of my ancestors from the keepers of their treasures in that damp, dark haven where history and the future came together. And during those childhood hours in the attic, I would hear my calling—the.eternal quest for stories told and untold. I answer it still.
Musty smells and mothballs will take me there again, sitting on a box in my memory, enraptured. I hear knockin' on the attic as voices in my head—whispery phrases that need a turn, stories aching to be told, or simply memories wanting another moment of my time. When I hear that knockin', I know there's a voice to be heard and a story to be told. So, be careful on the ladder, watch your head on that beam, and have a seat on that trunk over there. Lean in, for I have some tales to share...

Follow by Email

Friday, February 27, 2009

Why the attic?

We sat at the handcarved maple table, pressed between the backdoor and the washer and dryer that serve as extra counter space, my little sister and I. The smell of snap beans and ham mingle with the pine breeze coming through the screen as we await one of our two treats. The first must be earned by a supper well-eaten, and it sits hidden in a beaten silver tin on top of the refrigerator: Grandma's pound cake. My sister, motivated without reserve, has done her part to bring down the tin, but awaits me to diminish the lingering pile of greens I'm grimacing at on my plate. I get the final forkful down at last, and as we indulge in the sweet, yellow loaf Grandma's shivery hands set before us, I'm already fantasizing about the next treat.


"Can we go after supper, Grandma? Please?" I beg. My legs swing in anticipation just above the cracked linoleum floor.


"I have to finish washing the dishes first," she replies. "I wonder if there might be two girls who would help move this chore along?"


I inhale the cake and jump to duty. It was a fourteen hour trip from Indiana to North Carolina, to visit a small town made up primarily (as far as I could ever tell) of senior citizens who were either related to my daddy, grew up next door to him, or taught him everything he ever knew. It would be worth it though, once Grandma let down that ladder and allowed me to enter the stories tucked above it.


Dishes done, we walked into the tiny hallway of the humid house, where Daddy pulled on the dangling rope that let down the creaky wooden ladder leading up to Grandma's attic. Up we went, my sister cautious of the dark and skittering noises, myself in hot pursuit of them. Grandma, slower on the ladder, but more sure in the musty slants of space under the eaves, joined us, motioning to a large box to one side.


"Watch your heads, and sit down over there," she said. And then the storytelling began....


Grandma's attic was a place of mysteries to unravel, history to unfold, and questions to be asked. There were toys that my daddy and aunt played with, dollclothes that Grandma herself had sewn, scraps of fabrics saved from the ancient times of my daddy's youth, and even a pair of pantyhose Grandma kept that had been rationed once in a time of war. There were endless letters, documents, and books. Pictures on worn cardboard, cracked and curly-edged black and white portraits, even some imprints on tins or canvas. Antiques all, folded into dusty trunks and boxes, their significance unlabelled but for Grandma's remembering tales. Grandma had a good head for family history, not only of her own, but detailed accounts of Granddaddy's family that he himself had forgotten to care about long before. She delighted in the tellings that fed my appetite for knowing it all. Of course, the details have been lost through time and experiences more immediate to my growth, but the senses that attic had always opened in me live on.


The eternal quest for stories told and untold was my calling. I answer it still. Grandma's attic was the place where history was stored, tucked over the daily life that must go on in order to make futures, but still lovingly coveted under the same eaves that protected the family begotten of it. Musty smells and mothballs will take me there again, sitting on a box in my memory, enraptured with the stories of the ancestors that created me, the keepers of their lost treasures, and the damp, dark haven where it all came together.


I hear knockin' on the attic as voices in my head, whispery phrases that need a turn, stories aching to be told, or just memories wanting another moment of my time. An attic is where we store our stuff, not necessarily in the creaky, dank crawlspaces of our homes, but within the intricate and poignant workings of our minds. When I hear knockin' on my attic, I know there's a voice to be heard and a story to be told. So, be careful on the ladder, watch your head on that beam, and have a seat on that trunk over there. Lean in, for I have some tales to share...

1 comment:

slaburns said...

As always, you are incredible! I was sitting right there with you in Grandma's kitchen & I could taste the pound cake. My favorite part of visiting Grandma & Granddad was the attic adventures, too! Your way with words takes me back there once again...