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Rated: E · Other · Family · #1713803
A 16 year old girl walks out of a clean attic with the knowledge of someone else's past
         What could be worse than being trapped indoors for an entire Saturday? I thought as I ran the tip of my finger across the top of an ancient looking wooden chest. I used my thumbnail to scrape the film of dust from my skin.

         I turned and scanned the room around me. The creaky wooden floor below my feet was piled high with boxes of every size, objects covered with browned sheets and rags, and a number of odd looking things I couldn’t identify. I turned again, this time counting two tiny windows letting in a sparse amount of light.

         “A-choo.” I frantically brushed cobwebs from my hair.

         It was the first week of spring and here I was trapped in a dusty, cramped attic. I was grounded for sneaking into a Rated R movie. I’ve been sixteen for six months now and didn’t see what the big deal was. I was grounded for as long as it took me to clean this attic. I groaned, shoulders slumped.

         Recently, my grandfather had moved into an assisted living center. While my parents and aunts and uncles decided on what to do with the house, I was to begin the spring cleaning. It was just my luck that they stuck me with the attic, which by the looks of it, hadn’t been cleaned since before I was born.

         I tightened my short, auburn ponytail, tucking a few strands of straying hair behind my ears, liking the way it bobbed when I walked. I tugged my plain green tee over my boyish hips and straightened the curling cuffs of my jeans. My father has never understood why I would pay “good money,” his words, not mine, for jeans with holes already in them.

         What I couldn’t understand was why I was stuck doing this. This wasn’t my house, and these weren’t my things. I didn’t think this was fair at all.

         “Might as well get started,” I said to myself. It was Saturday and I was hoping to be finished by Sunday. First things first, I was going to need some cleaning products, an extension cord, a light, and a radio. My cell phone, i-pod, and car keys had all been confiscated that morning.

         After a few trips up and down the shaky attic stairs, I was ready to go. It was time to stop the procrastination and time to start cleaning if I ever wanted to get out of here.

         “Okay.” I rocked back on the heels of my worn out sneakers. “Where to begin?”

         I stood with my hands on my hips. “Hmm.” I turned on the radio and in the process noticed the ancient looking chest for the second time.

         I picked up a can of furniture polish and an old rag. Once I had the chest dusted, I pried open the lid ripping off a fingernail in the process. Besides cleaning, I also had to take inventory of everything in the attic. Some things were to be passed down to family members, some were to be sold, and the rest thrown out or donated.

         I pulled out a large brown leather book bound by a fraying black ribbon. I sat Indian-style on the floor and gingerly laid the book on my thighs. Carefully, I opened the cover. It wasn’t just any old book, it was a photo album. I didn’t recognize any of the places in the black and white photographs, but I thought I recognized my grandfather as a young boy. His eyes and smile were unmistakable.

         I jotted down chest in my inventory list and drew a short arrow immediately after it. Following the arrow I wrote photo album. I continued rummaging through the chest and moved on to a wide dresser with four large drawers. My list grew longer.

         Before I knew it my mother was yelling, “time for lunch,” up the attic stairs.

         “Okay,” I yelled back.


         For a few hours I had forgotten I was grounded. I had gotten lost in a time period I scarcely knew about. I came to the realization that there was a lot I didn’t know about my grandfather. Why hadn’t he told me much about his younger years? Why hadn’t I asked? Maybe I was too caught up in being a sixteen year old.

         From the conversations I’d overheard between my mother and aunts, my grandfather wasn’t very happy about his recent move. Over the past few years his memory had begun to waiver and arthritis had set in. Some days he forgot to take his medication, others he was in too much pain to do simple, everyday tasks, like sweeping or opening a jar of food.

         My grandfather hadn’t liked the idea of moving from the house he had lived in for decades into a small room in a building filled with strangers in identically small rooms. It didn’t feel like home to him. He was still adjusting when I got grounded.

         Maybe I could help my grandfather feel better. That thought alone made me feel happy. I couldn’t wait to get back into the attic.

         Over the cookies and milk my aunt had insisted on me having, I thought of a list of questions to ask my grandfather the next time I saw him. Where was he raised? Was it on a farm? What were those medals I found tucked away in a small velvet box? Where did he meet my grandmother? Where were they married? Was that her engagement ring I had found?

         The first thing I did when I got back to the attic was wash the windows. I took a step back. Finally, some natural light to work in. I had managed to get through a quarter of the attic before being called to lunch. For the next three hours I cleaned and sorted my way through another quarter, dusting and writing as I went. I was taking a walk down someone else’s memory lane.

The next day . . .

         I was back in the attic by eight a.m. That’s early for me on a Sunday. I had to lug up a second lamp. It had begun raining during the night and the natural light was dismal. As I began working on the last stack of boxes, I heard the steady drumming of rain against the windows.

         The boxes held nothing of interest to me. They mostly contained old books and papers. I uncovered a floor length mirror hiding in the corner after tossing a moth eaten sheet to the side. After some cleaning and polishing it looked like new again.

         I traced the intricate carvings around its yellow wooden frame with the tip of my finger. Even the stand the mirror was sitting on caught me attention with its elaborately curved feet.

         After a quick lunch of pizza and salad, my parents paid me a visit to check out my progress. They were impressed with what I had accomplished in a day in a half. My inventory list was two pages long, front to back, and I wasn’t even finished yet. I still had a quarter of the attic to go.

         That afternoon I uncovered and cleaned three lamps, a rocking chair, a foot stool, several framed photographs, and numerous odds and ends. Together, with my parents and aunts and uncles, we carried everything down to the empty garage. I finished up by vacuuming the cobwebs and sweeping the floor. I was tired, but my day wasn’t quite finished.

         After a quick dinner and even quicker shower, my parents handed over my cell phone, i-pod, and car keys with a smile and a job well done.

         I was going to visit my grandfather. My parents offered to accompany me but I declined. I was looking forward to spending some one on one time with my grandfather.

         Before heading out the door I volunteered to help go through everything we had piled in the garbage. I had some ideas of my own. I grabbed my tote containing the photo album, box of medals, engagement ring, and a dish of leftovers.

         My grandfather welcomed me with open arms and a giddy grin. I put the leftovers in his small fridge and took a seat in one of his matching recliners. He asked me how I was and vice versa. He told me about the other people living on his floor and about all the activities and outings he had participated in thus far.

         When it was my turn to speak I told how the attic cleaning had gone, leaving out the part of me being grounded, and everything I had found. He spent the next few hours answering my many questions. We were interrupted twice; once by his neighbor inviting him to join in on a card game, and once by my parents calling to check up on me.

         That night I fell asleep listening to the calming rhythm of rain falling outside my window and thinking about everything I had learned over the weekend.

         My grandfather was born and raised on a dairy farm in upstate New York; we now lived closer to the city. Once he graduated from high school he enlisted in the Army and was sent overseas where he fought in World War II. There, he earned the medals I had found. A few months after returning to the states, he met my grandmother.          

         She was selling vegetables on the side of the road a mile from the family farm. As he drove by he couldn’t help but notice how pretty she was. Later that day he returned to the stand buying a basket full of vegetables, the same ones growing in his mothers own garden. This continued for weeks until he worked up the courage to ask her out.

         They were married a year later “on the farm,” as he called it. The engagement ring I had found was hers. My grandfather thought he had misplaced it years ago and was delighted that I found it. He placed it in his box of medals for safekeeping and tucked it into his top dresser drawer.

         We went through each photo in the album. Some were him as a young boy on the farm. There was one of him on his horse named Whiskey and one of him posing with his parents in front of the barn.

         After marrying my grandmother, he took a job in a mill and worked his way up to management where he stayed until the day he retired. He was an avid fisherman and loved to read. The mirror I uncovered was made by his grandfather and he suggested that I keep it in my room.

         The framed photo’s I had found were of strangers and places he just happened to be passing by. One of his hobbies was photography and from what my amateur eye could tell, he was pretty good at it.

         While going through the chest in the attic I found and antique camera. My grandfather promised to teach me how to use it. We even planned a day to go around town snapping pictures.

Later that week . . .

         The following Saturday I checked my appearance in my newly acquired mirror and headed out the door. I climbed into the middle of my father’s pickup truck. My mother sat to my left, my father drove. We were making a trip to the assisted living center to visit my grandfather.

         He greeted us at the door to his room. My father was pushing a dolly, my mother and I carting boxes. We placed the ancient looking chest at the foot of his bed, and then hung several framed photographs on the walls in his room. I found one of my grandparents on their wedding day (my grandmother had passed away when I was a baby) and placed it on the night stand by the head of the bed.

         I placed the camera and a few other trinkets on his dresser and unloaded a box of old books on a shelf. My grandfather looked around his small but tidy room with approving eyes. He draped an arm around my shoulders and with a smile and a tear said, “Now this place feels like home.”

© Copyright 2010 Patrice Beaulieu (pbeau at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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