Grammie’s Attic

Did you ever play dress-up as a kid? I think we all did. As children with very active imaginations the game of dress-up appealed to us because we could be anyone we wanted just by changing clothes. My favorite place to play dress-up was my Grammie and Grampie’s house, specifically their attic. My older sister and I loved spending time there.

There were many advantages to going to Grammie and Grampie’s. For instance, Grampie would always give us money for the 7/11 store just down the street; another benefit was that my Grammie would not let my mother discipline us in front of her or even in her house no matter what we did so we were always getting away with things we would never even have attempted to do otherwise. Of course we knew we would be going home at some point in time so we did not push the envelope too far. Our parents had good memories and if we did happen to push that envelope too far, than not being disciplined at Grammie’s simply meant that we were delaying the inevitable until we got home.

Additional reasons I looked forward to visiting Grammie and Grampie’s : playing hide and seek, throwing various objects down the laundry chute, having Grammie read the story of the red hen to us, watching The Muppet Show with Grampie, and the list could go on and on for I completely enjoyed everything about our visits. However, there is one thing that sticks out above all others whenever I think back on those times, one place in that old house that I liked more than any other and that was the attic.

My Grandparents had a beautiful old house, two stories with a full basement and attic. To a kid the place looked like a mansion. The house was large enough and had enough cubbyholes and closets that we could play hide and seek inside. The washer and dryer were in the basement so for convenience there was a laundry chute on the second floor. My older sister, Kristi, and I used to throw things down the chute and see if we could make them land at a certain spot on the basement floor. If the chute had been just a bit larger, I am certain we would have attempted to push each other down, as it was we had to stick to inanimate objects rather than risk getting ourselves stuck halfway down.

The first floor held no real intrigue for us. Actually, unless we were watching The Muppets on television, we avoided the first floor as much as possible because that is where the adults hung out. Although I do remember one other attraction on the first floor besides The Muppets and that was the large porch swing. Sometimes we would get on this swing with our cousin and see how fast we could go. We enjoyed the swing but became bored with it soon and went in search of a different activity to occupy our time.

The second floor was even more boring than the first. The only interesting aspects were the origination point of the laundry chute, some good hiding places for hide and seek, and of course the main reason to even go upstairs: access to the attic. Opening the attic door and walking up those stairs I felt like Alice falling into her Wonderland.

The attic was the full size of the house and our grandparents used it for storage. The items stored up there were what made the attic such a marvel to us. The space itself was a little creepy: even though there were several lights hanging down from the rafters with pull chains it was always dark and as a child with a large imagination, the shadows these lights created could be home to any number of animals and insects such as birds and bats and spiders; cobwebs and dust covered everything and until we had bathed we constantly felt as if we were covered in cobwebs and dust as well; the wooden floor squeaked and creaked; the air was musty and always had a chill to it. All these things contributed to that creepy feeling and made for a pretty scary place for seven and eight year olds. Even scared, the mysteries, secrets, and memories that the attic held had a strong enough pull that we could no more avoid going up those stairs than we could willingly quit breathing.

There was a generation or more of memories and treasures stored up there and no matter how many times we went through it all, it seemed we always found something that was not there before. There were all kinds of pictures, mostly black and white, of my mom and her brother and sisters, Christmas decorations, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards, school projects, report cards, baby toys, the list could go on and on but my favorite were the old clothes. Prom dresses, first communion dresses and suits, my Grampie’s Army uniforms, etc., these were the main reason I spent so much time in the attic.

I was a very creative child with a limitless imagination and those clothes, with a little help from that imagination, told stories of a generation gone by. Looking at Grampie’s Army uniform, I could see him and my Grammie (in one of the dresses) dancing to big band music. I could see Grampie fighting a battle overseas and winning and I could hear the pride, excitement, and joy in Grammie’s voice when she turned down all those boys asking her out on dates because she was in love and engaged to Paul Reitzel.

At 37 as I look back on the time I spent in that attic I am not quite sure how much of what I remember actually took place and how much came from my imagination; either way it makes no difference, real or not, the memories are good ones. Grammie sold the house when my grandfather died and she went to live with my Aunt and Uncle. The house is now used for rental apartments to college students. I imagine most of the things that were in the attic were given to Goodwill or simply thrown away. I would have liked to have taken my kids into that attic but it wasn’t meant to be; they will have their own memories of childhood, the memories of that attic belong to me. Sometimes when I am feeling down and need something to cheer me up I think back to all of the good times I had growing up – I was lucky, I had a good childhood with all kinds of good memories and some of the best come from all the time I spent in Grammie’s attic.

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