Attics and lofts were places for discovery
Central City, Neb.
When I was a little girl I was fascinated with the attics depicted in children’s books, movies, and newspaper cartoons. They all had finished floors and a lot of interesting stuff stored in them. There was, without fail, a rocking horse. Other items in the pictures included trunks with fun dress-up clothes, a tailor’s dress form, sports equipment and various pieces of discarded furniture, maybe even a spinning wheel. Both Dagwood and Mr. Wilson of the “Dennis the Menace” comic strip are occasionally found in their attics exclaiming “So this is what became of my golf clubs” or “Here’s my old trumpet.”
I imagined myself playing in those attics, and wished our attic at home was like that. To date, I have never lived in a house with that kind of attic, and I still have sort of a yearning for it. The attics of my childhood and even our present one have always necessitated balancing storage boxes across the two-by-four stringers, with perhaps a small section covered with sheets of plywood as a sort of floor. On a trip up there, we had to crouch to avoid hitting our heads on the rafters and also watch our footing to avoid plunging a leg through the plaster ceiling into the room below.
In the little house our family first lived in, the only access to the attic was for my dad to use a step ladder and lift up a lid in the ceiling of my brother’s bedroom. He would carefully crawl around and hand down the box of Christmas decorations or whatever my mother wanted.
Our other houses had an upstairs with a door straight into the attic, but once in there we still had to contend with the sloping roof above and the lack of a floor. Still, I remember spending some time in the attic of our second house. We found things left there by the previous residents, and one summer I went through a box of my parents’ old love letters to remove the stamps for my stamp collection. I even read a few snatches of the letters themselves, but found them boring.
Always an inveterate reader as a child, I went through a lot of books with Victorian England as the setting. I was interested in the servants’ quarters which were typically in the attic. Usually the heroine was a young girl who had come into the household as a maid, or possibly the governess.
She always had a tiny garret room, and I pictured myself being there. When it described the bareness of the furnishings I wondered why that was considered so bad. At least she didn’t have to share her room with a sister as I did.
My experiences with lofts have been mostly enjoyable. On our farms, we had wonderful barn lofts housing swallows, pigeons, and one year an owl. There was often a litter of kittens up there too. Ropes hung down from the pulleys used for hauling loads of hay and straw into the loft. We would climb up to the shelf above the big door, swing out on a rope and let go over the straw pile, a’la Tarzan.
In my younger years when we still lived in the little house on Grandpa’s farm, our garage had a loft in it where boxes of magazines and books were kept, along with whatever else we didn’t have room to store in the house. A lean-to chicken house had been built onto the end of the garage. In cold weather this didn’t pose a problem, but on summer days I often went up to the loft by myself to read. Not only did the galvanized steel roof produce an oven-like heat, but the stench from the chicken house was almost unbearable. Still, I stayed up there, rapt in the world of western paperbacks or Saturday Evening Post stories, emerging later all covered with sweat and the dust of the place.
At this point in my life I do not now expect to ever move into a big old house with treasures in the attic – including, of course, a rocking horse.