My attic smells just like my grandmother’s attic did in her old house on Hillsdale Street. Why is that? Every time I pull down the ladder and climb up there, I close my eyes and still see her attic. Grandma’s attic sort of scared us, especially since at her house, not all rooms had a light switch to flick on. Most of them had a chain hanging with a big red dice from Las Vegas on the bottom as weight. I would have to flail my arms around back and forth to find the string. Not much changes. I still have to do that in my laundry room here at home. Sixteen years and I still have to find the string in the dark. But I like having an attic. SHE loves it. I keep all my Halloween and Christmas stuff up there, as well as the yearly boxes of Riverwood stuff and taxes, boxes of photos and cartons of my old “Off the Cuff” stories I wrote for a paper in Fort Bragg years ago. Sometimes I get stuck up in my attic reading this old stuff. It’s like having a detailed diary of my life. I need a comfortable chair in my attic. Maybe a little table. Its hard carrying boxes of photos and stuff up and down that rickety ladder. My attic is pretty good size. A few years back I got an arched window from Dazy’s and had it installed so I get good southern light. I think, long ago, someone actually slept up there because there is linoleum on part of the floor and wall sockets. I keep a bunch of file boxes on hand, and when things begin to overflow, I put it into a box, label what it is and shove it up in the attic. Months later, I forget where all that “stuff” went so I guess I didn’t need it anyway. Then I might go up into the attic for something else and see that “stuff” and say, “Wow! I’ve been looking for that”! Then I drag it back down again and back up……up and down, up and down. Drives Gary nuts.
Photographs are the best. Before the digital ages, I actually took photographs. I have boxes of photographs. Now they are all on my computer and I can’t find them when I want, can’t print them because my printers never work well enough and I’m not that organized to email them off to be printed. Maybe someday………Recently some old friends were dropping by so I went up into the attic and found my boxes of photos. Actually I found two boxes, but just yesterday I found a third box. I keep telling myself I’m going to go through them, sort them out, categorize by date. That would be a great rainy afternoon project. But, I’ve had 40 years of rainy afternoons and I haven’t gotten around to it yet. So, I hauled them back up to the attic.
My grandmother’s attic was right off the upstairs landing. It had a little door with a porcelain knob. My Aunt Gladys had been in the movies back in the 30’s. I have photos and news articles on her. Eureka was quite proud of her, although my grandfather almost disowned her when she hopped a train to Hollywood. There were a couple of trunks with her clothes and hats and shoes up there. After she left the movies, she married a slot machine repairman from Las Vegas. That’s where the dice came from, but ANYWAY! Grandma didn’t care what we did in her house. That was the fun part of staying with her. She would let me draw chalk roads on her carpet for my little cars and my sister and I could play upstairs to our hearts content. One of the bedrooms was totally empty (she was too old to go upstairs) so we had that set up with a fort and other stuff. We would get into the attic, dress up in Aunt Gladys’s clothes and play up there all day. Her attic had wood planks running down the center and then the roof tapered off on either side into darkness.
The house we moved to in Marin County was freshly built and it had a great attic. We were the first family to live in the house. I ran around to every room and stomped my foot in all the corners, declaring that I was the first human to step on that part of the floor. The attic was our hideout. It had a nice little door with a brass knob. It was always warm during the winter because the forced air heater was up there. My mom never understood why they put it upstairs because we were always cold downstairs. She never really liked that house anyway, but I thought it was grand. It had a BBQ grill in the kitchen covered by a huge copper hood. Very modern 50’s. The first and only time my dad decided to use it, the whole house smoked out and we all smelled like burnt meat for weeks. From then on it was covered with a cutting board.
When my sister and I weren’t torturing each other, we could be pretty good playmates. There were three years between us, me being younger, so lots of times I was just considered a pest. I was more into tomboy stuff, but when it was raining and we were bored we would go up to our attic and play with our dolls. It was pretty cozy up there because of the heater. We each had our doll closets and dolls, table and chairs and we could play for hours while the rain pounded on the roof. Mom would bring us lunch up there sometimes. When I went down to Marin for my 40th reunion, I stopped by the old house. A woman was out front so I parked, walked up and introduced myself. She asked me inside. Nothing was the same. From the outside, it all looked like it did, but inside they had pushed out walls, rearranged the kitchen and added on to the back. She led me upstairs. There, behind the little door, was my attic. It still smelled the same. And here’s the weird thing. Her sister was a council woman in Eureka and she lived on Hillsdale Street! How crazy is that!
I always drive by Grandma’s house. It still looks the same from outside. About 15 years ago, I stopped and knocked on the door. The high ceilings had been lowered, walls removed and Grandma was gone. There was no spirit of her left in the house. It really depressed me, but then again, about seven years ago, it was purchased by someone else and he happened to read a story that I had written about my Grandmother’s house, so he called and asked me to come up. He was restoring the house and wanted my opinion. I put it off for a long time, but finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I’m so glad that I went back to see it again. He had raised the ceilings, restored the stained glass. The old fireplace and mantel shone. He was in the process of finishing the kitchen. Grandma’s cherry tree in the back yard was full of Queen Ann’s so I helped myself to a bag. He ended up moving back East to be with his girlfriend and the house was sold once again. I thought about buying it, but the past is the past and the present is the Riverwood………
The attic at the Riverwood is huge. It smells like smoke and old wood. And it’s stuffed with stuff too. This is different stuff. Old bar stuff and weird stuff. I’ve dragged other stuff up there too. Some days I think THIS IS IT!! I’m going to go through all this stuff and get rid of it, but I get up into my attics and I just end up reminiscing and never get anything done. So, I will leave you with this old joke that we thought was really dirty when we were in grade school. Ya tell a girl to look down her blouse and spell A-T-T-I-C. Enough…….I need to be put away in the attic.