On a winter night in 1970 my family awoke to the smell of smoke and fire in the living room of our home. I was only seven years old so I was pretty scared when Mom came and scooped me up from my bed and ran outside. We lived in Massachusetts at the time so, needless to say, it was very cold out. I remember going across the street to my best friend’s house while the firetrucks came. We learned later that the cause of the fire was a faulty furnace. Everybody was okay and the house didn’t burn down, but it burnt just enough to make the house uninhabitable.
After packing up all of our stuff and putting some things in storage, we moved to my Grandfather’s house in another town. He lived in a three story duplex with plenty of room for me, my older sister, Mom & my step-father. When you first entered the house there was a hall way that led back to the kitchen. The living room and dining room were on the left of the hall way and the stairs leading up were to the right. I remember running through the house, down the hall, through the kitchen and on through the other downstairs rooms. Around and around we would go, running until we were out of breath and we would flop down into the closest comfy chair. Grampy didn’t care that we ran through the house as long as we didn’t break anything. Of course, when we moved in and Mom brought rules with her, we weren’t allowed to run in the house anymore. That was okay though, we made up for it outside, up and down the sidewalks in the neighborhood.
The second story of Grampy’s house consisted of a few bedrooms and a couple of bathrooms. The staircase going up to the second floor was pretty average I suppose, with a carved handrail and pictures hanging to the side. In the bathroom was a huge claw foot tub that seemed to be the size of a swimming pool. When I was older and saw a claw foot tub for the first time since I was a child, I realized that the tub wasn’t so big after all, I was just little bitty!
While the lower staircase was pretty average, the upper staircase going up to the attic was a different apple altogether. To a seven year old girl, it was down right scary! To access the stairway, you had to open a creaky door at the bottom of the stairs. Inside the door was a light switch to the one lone bulb that lit the way up to the attic. The staircase itself was narrow and dark and enclosed on both sides by the walls to other rooms. There was just the one bulb to light the way and we always had to close the door, that was Grampy’s rule. At the top of the stairs was a switch to the main light in the attic, but even that was just a single bulb. Climbing the stairs to the attic was pure torture for my sister and I. She always went up first though because she was the big sister.
We hated those stairs to the attic, but we climbed them several times every day. “Why?” you ask? Because of the treasures that awaited us in the attic. Treasures left there by our Nana, who had passed away a few years earlier. There were trunks, boxes and suitcases stuffed with Nana’s old clothes. There was jewelry and shoes and hats. Everything she had from her teenage years and through her 20s and 30s was there in that attic for two little girls to play dress up with. We would play for hours, imagining we were Nana as a teenager, trying to act ‘sophisticated’ or pretending to have a crush on a boy. We would dress up in fancy dresses and high heels and play school. Sometimes Mom would make sandwiches or cupcakes and we would have a party, all the while dressed up in Nana’s beautiful clothing.
Those were special times back then. The world was nicer and more simple, but then, isn’t it always that way for a child? Nana and Grampy are both gone now, so is Mom. My sister lives clear across the country and I haven’t seen her since 1997, but we do keep in touch. This story is one of my fondest memories of growing up and still brings a few tears even after decades have passed. I hope Nana’s hanging on to some of those dresses so I can borrow one someday!