Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cleaning out the attic and getting stuck

A quarter of a century ago, my family helped me load yet another U-Haul with all my stuff and moved me to the farm. This has been a wonderful home for me and my family, and I have treasured every day. I recently climbed into the attic and it appears that I have treasured everything that has passed through my hands for the last twenty-five years and that it has all landed under the rafters. 

I can't believe I'm doing this, nor that I have waited this long, but I have started cleaning out the attic. I'm sure someone has a great technique that would make this an orderly process, but if you do, please don't tell me. I'm too far into it now, and it would just make me feel bad. What I've decided to do is haul as much as I can down the stairs until the guest room floor is completely covered, then climb down and start sorting. 

That worked pretty well with the baby clothes and all the stuffed animals that I found. It didn't work so well today, though. It appeared that someone (surely not me) had set boxes of assorted junk into the attic on the side that is not floored. Well "set" is not the right word. Perhaps flung or propelled might be better. The boxes and the junk that had fallen out along the path of the box-projectile went nearly to the end of the attic. The only way I could figure to get it out was to climb onto a 2x4 and scoot my bottom along it, straddling my feet on the rafters as I passed down the board. This process was neither graceful nor comfortable. Once I scooted to the end of the 2x4, I started pushing stuff back along the board to the attic opening.  I would pivot on the board, push it with my foot (holding on for dear life to the overhead rafters), then pivot back. That worked great until I was ready to get down. When I looked back at the attic opening, I realized that there was a mountain of mess between me and the stairs. Being somewhat precariously perched on the 2x4, I was in no position to rearrange things.  Frankly, I was trapped. 

Being trapped seemed somehow disgraceful, but it became increasingly apparent that I needed help. My housekeeper had come today, taken one look at my mess and said, "I'm cleaning the bathroom and coming back tomorrow!" I was kinda hoping she was gone, but even more hoping she wasn't. I yelled her name. No response. "Oh, dear," I thought. "I'm gonna have to call the mayor!" (She had just left after borrowing my bedside power strip). 

I was scrolling through contacts on my phone when I heard a blessed voice calling to me. "Did you call me?" the housekeeper said. I hated to admit it, but yes, I had been calling her. She hollered up to me, "Where are you?" I hollered back, "I'm stuck in the attic and I need some help getting down!" "STUCK??" she yelled back. "Yes! Stuck! I can't get out because I'm perched on a 2x4 and all this mess has me blocked in!" 

She actually climbed up the ladder with a straight face, managed to haul all the offending mess down the ladder, clear the path, and free me from my 2x4 prison. There was no way to recover my dignity, so I just climbed down and looked for something to rearrange, as if it was the most normal thing in the world to get stuck on a 2x4 in the attic. My housekeeper looked around and wisely decided to leave without a word. 

As I surveyed the mountain of boxes and jumbles of papers and other detritus, I thought, "He is a God of order and not of chaos, and I can't tell He's in this at all!" Then, I opened a box and found family pictures. There was my daddy, smiling and happy and as handsome as a movie star. Much to my surprise, he had a cowlick in the exact place my son Ryan and I do. 

Suddenly, not one bit of the disorder mattered a bit. Finding that box filled with pictures and memories made all the effort and all the trouble worthwhile. I found one other thing that made me laugh out loud. There was a telegram from my daddy in the army to his mama. "Please send $20. Broke again. Will be discharged next week." Tucked inside was a receipt where my grandmother had sent the money. It turns out there's been more than cowlicks inherited, and I'm still smiling about it. Thst one note made all the time in the attic worthwhile.