On a once quiet, tree-lined street in our community sits a house built for a local blacksmith some one hundred and thirty-five years ago, before our street was even a named street. Down through the years, the house has passed from my great-grandfather, to my grandmother, and to my parents. I live here now, looking after my nonagenarian mother.
Occasionally, I sit on the steps of our attic and gaze down the pathways that loosely define the generations that have lived here. One by one, items were placed in this lofty darkness, many for safekeeping, still others intended to benefit someone else, at a later time. An old trunk, someone’s dress form mannequin, a discarded toaster, an assortment of bottles, a group of vases, a crumbling shoebox of kitchen utensils, and on and on. Holding an item just now, I feel a connection that reaches beyond the space of the attic across time to that family member. All of these things mean a great deal to me, and though it will be impossible to keep everything forever, the memories that they create can be preserved and shared. From the attic, back down the steps, and out into the street, our family history is interwoven with that of the surrounding community.
Several years ago I started a website blog (The Corner Door) in which I wanted to share some insights into local history. Changes in family dynamics averted my attention and contributed to a period of relative inactivity on the web. But, nonetheless work continued behind the scenes as I went through family papers and photos, visited public archives, and did some research with other family members and community historians. The occasional visits to the attic were having an impact.
More recently, I found myself behind the counter of our family store, and this experience has allowed me to connect with another part of my family’s legacy by serving a totally different segment of our community. Custom picture framing and antique lamp repair have given me an opportunity to interact with a diverse group of people and be of service to them. Most are creating memories that they wish to enjoy and eventually pass along, while others are trying to preserve some element of their family or local history.
Although big, dark attics with their hidden treasures may be unknown to some, people are people, and we all have a tendency to connect certain physical objects with other people or a moment in time.
I guess that’s why I love attic archaeology.