So, one of the writing exercises in Clear Out the Static in Your Attic is to describe something in detail from your attic, whether real or metaphorical is kind of hazy.
I never lived anywhere where I had an attic, though. We never had an attic where we stored things when I was growing up. Wanted one, never had one. We had a basement, a room under the stairs, crawl spaces. No attics.
So, in doing this writing exercise I had to decide, should I describe the basement I do know, or the attic I don’t know? Is there a difference in how we store our memories? Whether in a mental basement or a mental attic?
My basement will always be the basement in the house on Pear Lane with the cool room beneath the stairs and the wall of shelves for canned goods, the large zinc sinks, the drain in the corner, and the cut out cupboard in the wall where Gramma kept her bulbs. My sister tells me there was a little spot on the wall where Grampa kept his guns behind chicken wire, but I don’t remember that. I figure I blocked that.
I guess what I’m saying then, in reading the above, is I’ve answered my own question. I don’t connect with an attic like I do a basement, so it’s best to use the basement.
The title of this chapter in the Clear the Static book was “Floorboards.” So, we’re supposed to describe the floorboards in the attic.
The floor in the basement was concrete, of course. It was painted gray in the main room with the zinc sinks, but there was green shag carpeting down the stairs and at the foot of the stairs and into Mom’s room. That’s all we had for carpet. My sister and I got the linoleum in our room. It was cream-colored with gold glitter in it and had these odd shaped star things in black and pink. My sister and I used to pretend they were spiders and we had to get around the room without touching them, which meant hopping about from door to bed to bed, and back again.
In the summer, when it was 108 degrees outside, the basement floor was nice and cool to the touch. But it was way too cold in the winter when we’d tiptoe across to brush our teeth in the zinc sinks so the grownups could have time in the real bathroom getting ready for work.
One of my favorite places in the basement was halfway up the stairs, just sitting there, sometimes reading a book. When I first learned about prayer, that was where I sat to pray, asking God for a crown, a robe, a scepter and a chest of jewels to arrive there by the time I came back to my favorite place on the stairs.
Gramma tried real hard not to laugh when she explained to me that’s not how prayer works.
Still, it was one of my favorite places in the basement.
The other favorite place was the little room beneath the stairs. It was always warm, all year round. It was where the hot water heater was, which was “new” and right next to the old hot water heater, or boiler, which was made of iron and had 1898 stamped across it. It was the room where the ironing board and iron were kept, always set up. It was where all the old games, knickknacks, toys, sewing supplies, fishing rods, and other oddments were stored. As far as I was concerned, it was a glorious room. A magical room. Down there was where the old Chinese checker game lived, alongside the 1,000 piece dragon puzzle. It was one of the places where I hid when things went wrong. I think of all the rooms in that little orchard house, that’s the room I miss the most.
Yeah, it’s not the attic that works for me. It’s the basement.