From the Heart
She grew up foraging in the attic, gathering a lifetime of memories along the way.
Tucked-away treasures keep memories close.
As a child, I adored going through stuff up in my family’s attic. At the top of the attic steps, there was an old trunk that held my pop’s faded World War I uniform. On top of Herbert’s uniform, shaped like a cloth ship, was his uniform hat. Often I’d lift the hat, inspect its moth-eaten holes and gently tuck it back in.
The trunk also held a piece of paper penned with a poem called A Soldier’s Prayer, which Pop carried into battle. The prayer asks Jesus to protect the soldier from capture and bodily harm. Grandma Laura wrote a note on the back of the paper that said: “Carry this in your garments. Sew it in your clothing. Study this prayer so you know it by heart. Should you lose it, you can write it down for yourself. Be not selfish about this prayer; allow other soldiers to copy it, since it may also help them.”
The attic stored other items that fascinated me. I peeked into my sisters’ hope chests, boxes of good-luck items for their future marriages. Stored in these chests were things my sisters had made, like embroidered bureau scarves and pillowcases, as well as items they’d received, like dishes and
silverware. (In those days, the church Sunday school rewarded perfect attendance with these kinds of gifts.) Other boxes, packed with old photos, dishes and clothes, were strewn beneath the attic’s eaves. One box in particular contained floral watercolor paintings by my mother, Mary. These prints, amid stiff brushes and hardened paint, were stacked haphazardly, as if on hold. With the work of raising 10 kids and being married to a farmer, Mom’s artistic talents were never truly realized. Delicious aromas also filled the attic. They wafted out from a small room where smoked ham and bacon hung on a thick rope during the winter. My mother, when preparing a Pennsylvania Dutch meal of ham and beans, would bring a ham down to the kitchen and saw off a generous and delicious slice. I suppose all attics must have spooky areas. Our family rarely used the space above the farmhouse’s original structure, and I never went near it. No amount of Christmas decoration boxes could entice me to venture that way. Nor would I, at the urging of my devilish sister Gladys, who loved terrifying me, risk my life to enter the attic after dusk. We believed bats flew in through an opening near the chimney where there was a trap door located in the roof. Only once did I climb the ladder to the trap door and poke my little head out. Today, the smells of mothballs and ham connect me to my attic trips. Teeming boxes and Army paraphernalia bring me reveries as well. My memory box is filled with treasures from the attic.