It was attic cleaning time, not just rearranging and sweeping, but emptying out boxes and throwing out junk cleaning time. I looked at it several times and gave up. Then one of my granddaughters offered to help me. She turned out to be a Super Teen.
Others would have helped, I’m sure. But my own children are adults now. Adults have a tendency to get bossy. The littler grandkids would have loved to tear through the junk collection in the attic, but this could have made an even greater mess.
A teenager was perfect, old enough to be a real help with lifting, sorting, and shoving, but young enough to take orders without a debate with Grandma.
We started after school one hot day near the end of May. She helped me clear a path to the household items stored up there, so we didn’t have to find an opening between the garment bags. I crouched over, under the eaves, to go through boxes she shoved over to me. After about 10 minutes, I called for a break. “We have to stop before I freeze in this position.”
“Grandma, nothing is going to freeze in this place today,” she informed me.
“Okay, I have to straighten my back or sit down, and if I sit down on this floor, it will take three men and a boy to pull me back up. There’s no room for that up here.”
“Well you could sit on the bath stool that’s over there on top of those boxes,” she suggested. Not only could she see the stool, but she also could climb over and get it for me. I began to suspect we would make a great team.
We got along famously. I only freaked her out once. I had started to sweep the floor when I uncovered a dusty little feathered thing. Feathers say birds to me. I knew some birds were in attic before we put vents in a window. I was sure I had found the remains.
“How do you feel about dead birds?” I asked. She screamed. For a minute I thought maybe I needed a teenaged boy. But no, I just needed to do it myself. I gave it another poke. It rolled over. I almost screamed.
Then I noticed some of the feathers were very red. I poked it over again. My helper let out another yelp. I started to laugh. It was a dusty, old, red-feathered bird Christmas tree decoration.
When it was time to quit for the night, we had finished the southwest corner, and we had hauled out six garbage bags full of junk. So, it continued for one night each week for several weeks. We were making great strides and having a lot of fun.
She could be trusted to sort through boxes of old costume jewelry keeping the good and eliminating the bad. She became an expert at sorting and shredding old papers which were no longer needed. And she was excellent company.
Freak out number two came when I found a photo of a little baby in a coffin. “Do you want to see a picture of a dead baby who would probably have been your great uncle?” I asked. “No!” she screamed as she leaped toward me, grabbing the photo. “Why would someone take such a gruesome picture,” she asked. We talked about it and decided it was because they would never see the baby again.
Later, while she was taking a little break, I found a bunch of brand new panties with my mother’s name tag sewn carefully into each pair. When my helper returned, I told her to get the scissors and take out the name tags so we could give the panties away.
She just looked at me. I looked back and explained my mother’s grave would look like a Roto-Rooter went through it if I gave the underwear away with her name tags in them. She finally did the deed by holding the panties with two fingers as she stabbed at the name tags.
By the end of July, after sweating, steaming and working weekly, we were done. The attic was clean and organized. We just stood and grinned at each other. What a great feeling!
Not only did I have a clean attic, but Grandma and one Super Teen had really bonded.
Author’s Note: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate on September 12, 2001.