Treasures in the Attic

My husband and I drag out the yellowed boxes peppered with dead Japanese beetles from the far corner of the attic. We’d put off this dirty chore to clean, sort, and organize long enough. To psych myself up for the task, I imagine uncovering a valuable treasure that I’d auc-tion off on eBay. I roll up my sleeves and began vacuuming up dead beetles. 

I lift the cover of a box decorated with wrapping paper circa the 1950s with the word “Muff” written in my mother’s handwriting. After pulling out the white fur muff, my mind goes back to age 7. My sister had a muff too, and we’d stand side by side in our Sunday best, our hands inside our muffs, feeling sophisticated and special. When did little girl muffs go out of style? Was it a gradual change, or like these last few months, did change happen quickly? 

Next, I unbox my sweet, pink baptismal dress with fancy, matching pink shoes. The knowledge that hard-earned money had gone into a dress and fancy baby shoes for me warmed my heart. Money was tight when I was born. My father worked on the line at American Motors in Kenosha, and my mother stayed home with my older sister and me. Mom loved to splurge occasionally by dining at supper clubs or going out for Friday fish fries, but that only happened if my father got overtime. I hold the shoes a moment longer, then go on to the next box. 

I uncover a fancy hairbrush set my grandmother gave me at a reunion many years ago. It had been a gift to her from my grandfather at their wedding. At first glance, I thought it might be tortoise shell. Some of the smaller tools, like a fancy-handled tool for pushing back cuticles, have deteriorated. It strikes me as a strange gift since my grandmother, a farmer’s wife, wasn’t 

into “fancy.” Her face would light up when family and friends would visit around the kitchen ta-ble. We’d listen to her observations and chuckle over her witticisms. I pause to wonder what ad-vice and humorous observations she would have for these unique times. 

The next box, 40 years old, contains the fancy pink dress my elder daughter wore for her first birthday. Pictures we took of her in that dress instantly pop in my head: smeared frosting on her fingers and her bright eyes as she brings the cake to her waiting mouth. I wonder if she, too, recalls the photos and would like the dress. I’ll call her later and ask. After all, memories are best if shared. 

When I find the treasure box my younger daughter put together, I grin. She kept the tiny brush she used to groom her guinea pig, Caramel. I also find a bunch of pink spongy rollers. She would not have added these to the treasure box; I must have. For school picture days or special occasions, I used to roll her white-blonde hair in them. After I’d pulled them out, she looked adorable with little curls all over her head. The neighborhood sheep dog also thought she was adorable, and during a block party, tried to herd her around the yard. It’s amazing how that instant in time can come back so vividly, and I hope it stays in my memory forever. 

My task finished, I realize I hadn’t found anything worth posting on eBay. I had found true treasures, though, lasting memories to hold close.