Katy visits a newly built house
and muses on its empty attic.
June 1967

Dear Nephew Ray

I can't remember when there have been so many houses being built. Our village seems to be reaching out in all directions. Even the country roads are lined with brand new homes. We enjoy driving around occasionally to see what progress has been made and the other evening were invited to stop and inspect the just-finished home of a young couple we know.

This was an exceptionally large house, incorporating many of their own ideas. I was admiring the large walk-in closets in the master bedroom when Jos called to me.

"Katy Lou, come up here. You got to see this yourself or you'll never believe it is possible." I followed his voice to the foot of the attic stairway, climbed up, and saw ... nothing.

"That's what I meant. They's nawthin' here. Just a big, empty attic." Jos grinned at my stunned expression, "I never saw an attic before that didn't have fortysix trunks and boxes and a pair of ice skates hanging from the rafters to tunk you on the head when you went by. Now you see, Katy Lou, an attic don't need to be like ours. I've always said you save too much."

Not only do I save too much, but my mother and grandmothers before me did as well. I can't bear to throw away the things they treasured so our attic accumulation is one of Josiah's favorite teasing subjects. Someday someone will have to sort and burn most of the stuff,I suppose, but it won't be me.

If I can see what's in a family's attic, I'll tell you a great deal about its life. Those who have old trunks and aged cardboard boxes are the second or third generation keepers of family treasures. Those who have boxes and barrels crammed full of out-grown clothes and not quite good enough to hang but too good to throw away drapes and curtains have squirrel-type mothers. When there are boxes and boxes of books, Father hasn't yet gotten around to build the bookcases with which he promised to line the upstairs hall when they moved in years ago.

Carefully packed toys speak of growning children not quite ready to relinquish childhood. Unfinished models tell of changing hobbies. An abandoned crib and highchair are undoubetedly being saved as insurance that they will not be needed again or in hopes of being passed on to the next generation. Folded cots, worn chairs, and boxes of kitchen-ware whisper of hopes for a cottage at some quiet lake where these would be servicable.

Attics are wonderful places for children to play, especially on rainy days in summer when most other activities pall. There are interesting clothes to dress-up in and perform plays or just pretend. Books, long unread and out of date are excellent companions on an otherwise dismal day. Games that preceeding generations of children played, puzzles they put together, even with one or two lost pieces, are fun when attacked with the help of visiting cousins.

Boxes of photographs pasted on slabs of greenish cardboard, and for the most part unidentified, chronicle the families past from babyhoods through school days, weddings, and family gatherings. Fashions in clothes and hair-styles, progress from horse-drawn to horse-less carriages, additions to the house, changes from board to cement sidewalks, and dirt to paved streets, all are pictured for the amusement and edification of the younger generation.

A woman can stand in her attic and be swept with memories. Her whole lifetime is summed up in the discarded debris that line the eaves and lean wearily against the chimney. So she yearly cleans and tidys the once loved things that were too good to throw away but no longer fit into everyday life and as she does so, she reaps an extra harvest of cobwebby memories, dusty tears, and echoes of laughter.

These things are yet to come to our young friends new attic with its raw wood smell and still labeled window panes. But sooner than a man would think possible, the woman of the house will begin filling the family attic and family life with precious memories and seemingly useless memoribilia.

Just before the Dogwood blossoms fell in pink-tinged drifts of white petals, we drove along the edge of a wooded gully and enjoyed the sight of hundreds of blossom-loaded trees nestled among the green-leaved Oaks and Hawthornes. Martha crawled through a fence, scrambled a ways down the gully's steep bank to returned with one late Trillium, its lavender trefoil flower rising proudly above the three wide green leaves that girdled its stem. She saw two Jack-in-the-Pulpits lounging in the shade of a fallen tree which protected them from the late afternoon sun.

Two large, handsome cock Pheasants skittered with frantic dignity from the path of the car as we went on up the hill. Their hens probably huddled in the ditch, trusting their mates to draw off the seeming danger. We looked in vain for deer. It had been very warm that day and they must have kept to the deeper cool shade of the woods. Often we do see a doe or two with their fawns feeding at the edge of a field in the early twilight. Occasionally the buck joins them but he most generally keeps watch from some hidden vantage point.

I wondered as clouds of dust rose behind the car, what happened to all that endless rain we had in May. Green though the grass is, the ground beneath is hard and dry. How much rain would it take to refill the underground water-table and make the earth soft again? I wonder if we will ever get caught up on our water supply or if that, like so many other resources, is being slowly consumed beyond nature's power to restore.

Uncle Jos sends regards as do I,

Your Aunt Katy