It was always a mysterious place, up in the garage attic.
The garage wasn’t your typical garage, we didn’t keep cars in there at all, it was actually a small barn, one of two buildings left over from the farm that my great uncle had once lived off of. The farm was a one of the many victims that was targeted by an unknown arsonist that had terrorized our small town back in the 60’s. (When I was in elementary school I remember visiting our town’s historical museum and reading musty old newspaper clippings about “the firebug” having struck again.)
The barn fire actually left three things, the garage, my house, and the skeletal remains of hundreds of cows scatter throughout the yard, allowing me a happy childhood of digging up and playing with the thick mossy bones.
I used to be afraid of the garage, even in the daytime when you went inside the only light shimmered with dust through slits in the slipped sheets of metal that were boarded over the shattered windows. The walls were covered with a collection of musty items, a wicker fishing basket, a splintered toboggan, and deteriorating snowshoes. The sad eyes of a nude cherub stared from a faded poster put on the wall with a nail carelessly through the center of the image. It was all there like the last person to use it didn’t realize that once up on the rusty nail, this stuff would remain untouched for several decades.
If you could manage to work through all the debris there was a ladder, barely visible in the darkness. Up in the attic it was a whole different world, the walls were sloped and met in a narrow point leaving only crouching space for us even though we were young and short. My two best friends and I set to cleaning the attic out, our goal to be able to live there together. (Looking back I realize that my childhood is largely made up of my many futile attempts to make unrealistic spaces livable. My dream houses included but were not limited to, the ditch across the road from my house, an old gutted bus abandoned in the woods, and the moldy old trailer that my dad had gotten instead of payment for plumbing services.)
We named our space “The Cookie Jar” and painted this colorfully onto a deteriorating piece of particleboard along with our names and perhaps most importantly, “NO BOYS ALLOWED”.
The best corner of the attic was the far left corner, where the large square window overlooked the hill covered in ancient white stones that made up the cemetery across the lane, It made the attic even more special, like everything whispered between friends could be a secret forever, it was silent and surrounded by the dead.
Also in the far left corner were stacks and stacks of bee crates (or at least that’s what I thought they were at the time.) That was where most of the work of cleaning up the attic came from, moving the stacks and stacks of bee cages. Halfway through the pile, flattened between the bee crates, we found a faded “Playboy”. We giggled in the dim light as we flipped through the magazine and looked at pale white breasts through the film of grime settled on the pages.
The attic was our secret place, as it had been for others before. I’m sure our old particleboard sign is still up there rotting away, just like the artifacts of life that hang on the walls bellow. The attic is there, our stuff scattered around as it was the day we climbed down and never returned. It leaves me feeling neglectful and sorry, I hadn’t known that our last meeting had passed or else I might have been sad and tried to cling to it forever. This longing describes the essence of growing up, you don’t realize its your last time getting read a bedtime story, or the last time you’ll fall asleep in your fathers lap, it simply doesn’t happen again, but still you move on.
Childhood isn’t ripped from us, it slips away bit by bit until at last we are standing alone. Even though we have grown the attic remains, holding our memories in a cocoon of dust until someone else comes along to clear out the results of time and make it there own.