Beth in the Attic

January 1, 2015




One day Beth went digging through her parents’ dusty old attic in search of a photo album she’d remembered while doing the dishes. A burgundy floral pattern on a plate lathered with dish soap had triggered a memory of a maroon rose print dress her grandmother wore in a photograph taken in the 1960s. In the photograph, her grandmother looked young, and lean. Her waist appeared smaller than Beth’s could ever hope to be.


Beth wondered if women back then were less comfortable, with their scratchy panty hose and pre-second wave rights (or lack thereof) – or perhaps more comfortable, with their elaborate grooming rituals respected for their second-class status. 


As far as Beth understood it, it was in some ways a simpler time back then, when time moved more slowly. When the dishes had to be done one by one, and the garments lasted longer and so were treated with more care, and in these ties to the home, there was a grounding in tradition. 


In this modern world, Beth broke dishes in the dishwasher that she could replace at Ikea and her clothes were like Kleenex from H&M – gone were the days of handkerchief dresses, at least for a young woman of her means. 


This is why people become hipsters, she realized. And suddenly, she, too, longed for dusty vintage treasures, and so she ventured up into the cobwebs of the pointy hat atop her parents’ house in search of something good. 


In the attic, Beth found boxes. Too many of them. They were stacked here, and there, they smelled of dust and aging packing tape. There were wood smells and baby smells and metallic smells from the 1980s that Beth remembered from her own infancy. 


She could almost touch those former decades with her fingertips. She could smell her father’s youth in his collection of vinyl records, in an old, brassy trophy. The presence of a younger man full of vitality haunted the space like a ghost – or was it her faint memory of the man she knew to be her dad when she was a baby? His smile broad, his back upright, he’d a boyish charm – when did he age? She wondered. 


She mused that time must dash forward each time we blink. Here was the evidence stacked atop dusty wood slivers. 


Beth sneezed. The air stood still. Her fingers raced through picture frames and wooden boxes, mini treasure chests made of old cookie tins. A stack of postcards. An old pair of costume earrings in a suede pouch. Who would someday rifle through her boxes? She wondered. She sat with this question in silence, paying reverence to the sanctity of the tomb that spread around her, blinking in the sunlight that streamed through the small window at the tippy top of the roof. 


She breathed in the smells – her young dad smells, and a softer scent of her mother’s stories told in letters, journals, yellowing away. That picture – where was that picture? She needed it, now. 

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