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Thursday, July 24, 2014

What's in your attic?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Two of my childhood homes had attics. Attics were my favorite place to play. Maybe it isn't too exact to use the word "play" because often I was snooping, dreaming, exploring or creating. Those were some of my favorite pastimes, and I guess you could say that they were my method of playing.

My favorite of the two attics was special because I could reach it by a secret passageway. I could go into the bedroom shared with my sister, step into the closet and disappear behind a wide shelf. At the very end of that shelf was a loose board for the fifth step up to the attic. I could move that board and slip through the crack and climb up to the attic.

The problem with that maneuver however, was that by the time we inherited that particular bedroom from our brothers, they had moved into two bedrooms up in the attic. Of course it was always interesting to go up to look at the things our poet brother had written on the slanting wall above their bed, or wonder at the designs and formulas that our engineering student brother was working on. But the smaller bedroom for our oldest brother wasn't used too often because he had already graduated from college and was working out of town most of the time. So I could use his bed as a repository for my doll collections which I put through dramatic stories during many rainy afternoons.

But in spite of the attic being lived in, there was still a small section that was used for storage. That was where I could look into musty boxes and pull out weird looking articles of clothing, or find old Christmas wrappings or decorations that I hadn't seen before.

When I was very young, long before my brothers had moved upstairs, our house had an unusual water system where water was pumped up to a large oval tank in the attic each morning and gravity brought the water down to the bathroom and kitchen. This was in Washington, D.C., but it was on the Maryland edge of the District which wasn't very urbanized in the early 1930s. Western Avenue, which passed our house, wasn't even paved a block away from our home, and the public water didn't reach that area. Each of the large homes on that street had sewers, but not public water, so we each had these large tanks in our attics.

I was a little afraid of the tank of water. My sister said she was always afraid that our father would run the pump too long and too much water would be pumped up to the tank. I was too young to worry about that, but something about having this three foot deep tank sitting upstairs both challenged me and scared me. I think I had been told repeatedly to not bother the water which added to my fear. But I do remember running my hands through the water and wondering if later in the day I would wash my hands in that same water.

After the public water system was put in, the tank disappeared and there was even more room in the attic for exploring. There was a little window in that area which faced Western Avenue and by lying down I could watch what was going on in the street below me. I could see up to the bus stop a short block away where my older siblings would be coming home from work or college. I would often then run down the two flights of stairs to meet them at the front door.

I was in high school when we moved into the second house that had an attic. This was a lovely large room with a good finished floor and windows in all four directions. I had plans for making the attic into a recreation area, but since the house was large enough that we didn't need the extra room, I never followed through with my plans. I still dream about what I could have done with it however.

When we were here in Vernon County, our home did not have an attic, but the barn had a hayloft. That was almost as good except there were no boxed up treasures to look at. But sometimes we found unexpected live things in with the hay. I think the day we found the snake up there was the time I learned to jump out of the hay loft window.

Carolyn Gray Thornton
Middle Age Plus