I’ve always been interested in collecting things from the past, from the oldest relics to the more recently forgotten thingamabobs. It’s something that keeps the past alive, which is something I hold in high regard. Many could say I have a problem or an addiction, but I see nothing wrong with admiring things that only exist for a moment. After all, life itself is but a fad.
However, my interests have come along with a few downsides, of which the naysayers have warned me. My trinkets have consumed a decent amount of storage within my grandmother’s attic. She agreed to allow me the use of her attic a few years ago. Rather than paying with cash, she accepted labor in exchange for storage, which was much more reasonable than renting some storage unit that I’d be locked out of within a month.
For years, I’ve been living in the loft above her staircase. I’ve been tending to chores, like dusting and caring for the garden. I’ve stayed true to my word, reducing myself to a housekeeper in order to keep my hoard. Of course, my collection has expanded since I first moved into the loft.
I get up every morning and enter the attic, which is conjoined with my loft. I have to get up before the crack of dawn, ensuring I have time to take inventory before beginning my chores and running my errands. Each and every box I’ve stored over the years is important to me, holding a small piece of history inside, and I can’t chance any being damaged or going missing.
Aside from my hoarding, I’m very organized. My family says I’m compulsive to a fault. But, just as they value their money and jewels, I value my boxes. Should I say they are silly to safeguard their valuables, I’d be speaking hogwash! However, their naysayer attitudes aren’t enough to break my habits, and I continue to check my boxes the way they check their bank accounts. This was something I’ve done for years, something I never deviated away from. Especially with my newest addition from about a month ago.
I’d just finished inventory and my morning chores, and headed downstairs to the kitchen. I was starting up the coffee machine when an engine’s lurch caught my attention. I peered from the kitchen window, watching as the mailman made his rounds. I waited for him to return to his car before heading out to gather the post.
I strolled along the dirt road that trailed from my grandmother’s backyard to the end of the road, where the mailbox crookedly stood. I opened the box and removed its contents, scanning over them as I began my walk back to the house. While most of what I held was junk or scam offers, a few were important; I put those at the top of the stack to read once I returned to the house.
Once I was back inside, I reentered the kitchen. The coffee was brewed by the time I’d made the long walk to and from the mailbox. I fetched two rustic, silver mugs from the cabinet, filled them, and placed them along with the mail atop a silver tray (it was a set with the mugs).
I then began my ascent up the stairwell to my loft. I would have stopped there, but my grandmother was waiting for me in the attic, so I continued into the conjoined room. She sat in her rocker next to the window, and I sat atop one of my many boxes beside her. I set the tray atop one of the other boxes, gathering the stack of post.
Naturally, I didn’t bother with the junk I’d already sifted through and tossed it among the rest of the clutter. The stack had decreased greatly after that, yet a few envelopes remained. Some were from estranged family out of state. I ignored them, just as I’d ignored all their negativity toward my collections. Their letters meant nothing to me, therefore I had no reason to bother my grandmother with their nonsense. With those letters aside, I was left with a single one from Miss Ruth.
Miss Ruth was my grandmother’s best friend. They often wrote to one another, despite Miss Ruth living directly across the street. They were both elderly – my grandmother in her late eighties, Miss Ruth in her early nineties – and neither of them had the health for frequent visits.
I looked to my grandmother with a smile, showing her the envelope. She beamed in the sunlight; I could tell she was happy. However, her eyesight was terrible at this point, so I read the letter to her. While Miss Ruth’s arthritis-induced chicken-scratch was difficult to translate, I managed a few key bits.
Miss Ruth was gushing about the china tea set her grandson had recently gifted to her. She bragged about it for a few paragraphs before finally asking my grandmother if she’d be interested in having tea the next Saturday. This tickled my grandmother, as she nearly fell from her rocker in excitement. I hoisted her back into place and fixed the quilt in her lap.
I was happy for my grandmother, but having visitors wasn’t the norm. It was typically only my grandmother and me (aside from the occasional food delivery person or religious solicitor), but I wasn’t against the idea of actual company. It’d make my grandmother delighted and it’d give me an excuse to show off my many novelties.
When the Saturday of the visit rolled around, I got up even earlier than usual. It must have been two in the morning, if not earlier. I carried out my inventory ritual, cleaned the house with extra care, and helped my grandmother dress in her best. The house looked lovely, but it couldn’t hold a candle to my grandmother. She looked absolutely radiant when the rising sun finally shined upon her, reflecting the emerald color of her favorite formal dress.
It was nearing noon when I heard the doorbell. I scurried down the stairwell and toward the main entrance. When I opened the door, Miss Ruth was smiling at me with lipstick-smeared teeth and crinkled eyes. She was bent over her walker, her grandson behind her to tote the tea set. The two stood on the porch, waiting for me to invite them in.
While Miss Ruth was patient, her grandson appeared annoyed. He reeked of anxiety and frustration, and he was grumbling about how he needed to get back to work. Miss Ruth had made a jab about his obsession with his work, but I fully understood his passion, for I had the same fire regarding my collecting. Rather than have him lug the set inside, I offered to take it off his hands, an offer on which he hastily jumped. In a matter of seconds, the tea set rested in my hands and the man was sprinting from the porch to his car.
I helped Miss Ruth inside, gesturing for her to take a seat on the couch while I went to prepare the tea. I took a moment to admire the beauty of the tea set – pure white china adorning watercolor carnations on the pot, cups, and saucers – and thought of how beautiful it’d look next to my grandmother’s rustic mug set. I thought of how the imperfect silver would contrast against the perfect china, and how lovely they’d looked nestled against each other among my other accumulations.
When the tea had been brewed and the set prepared, I reentered the den. Miss Ruth thanked me then asked when my grandmother would be joining us. I corrected her, explaining how my grandmother preferred to have her coffee (or tea, in this case) in the attic, where she could gaze out the window and down upon the other houses. I told Miss Ruth of how my grandmother and I always shared coffee in the attic while either people-watching or rummaging through my countless knickknacks.
Miss Ruth seemed interested, especially when I mentioned my assortment of carved canes from around the world. I helped her up from the couch, gave her the walker, and ushered her carefully toward the stairwell. I followed behind her as we began our climb, making certain she wouldn’t fall. We walked through my loft then into the attic, where Miss Ruth was clearly shocked by the sheer amount of boxes.
While she didn’t make a comment, I knew she wanted to say what my family had always said. She stood in stupor, which I only managed to break her from by reminding her that her tea would get cold. I led her behind a few walls of boxes and to the far wing of the attic, where my grandmother awaited us.
There seemed to be something special about that window’s view, for Miss Ruth’s mouth fell agape and her face paled. I enjoyed the view myself, as an aerial look at the world was captivating. But, I’d never seen someone quite as enthralled as Miss Ruth.
I asked her to take a seat, which she abruptly acted reluctant to do. I knew the window’s view was a wonder, but it seemed a bit rude to allow our tea to get cold. I set the tray on the box that sat before my grandmother’s rocker, motioning for Miss Ruth to take a seat on the box across from it. She, however, silently refused by shaking her head. She started to press herself against the windowpane.
I approached her, practically having to drag her to her seat. I’d left her walker propped against the windowpane for later, then made my way to my own seat. I grabbed a cup of the tea and served it to Miss Ruth, then I passed the other to my grandmother, and served myself last. I took a sip from my own tea, enjoying the quiet company.
Unfortunately, the quiet was fleeting. Miss Ruth had managed to find her voice and screamed. She tried to stand, but fell to the attic floor without the aid of her walker. I watched as she trembled, trying fruitlessly to crawl over to the crutch. I found it rude of her, wanting to eat and run in such a manner.
I arose from my seat and strolled to the windowpane, grabbing her walker. I tossed it atop my shoulder, heaving it around until I reached the outer layer of my hoard, which was a good fifteen-feet from our get-together. With the hem of my shirt, I haphazardly polished the metal and placed it into one of my boxes, the one that held my grandmother’s old cane.
There was enough cardboard in that attic to insulate it, not to mention enough to snuff out Miss Ruth’s garbled screams. Though muffled, I listened to the hollering and smiled. Those two gals must have been having a grand time to be throwing such a fuss. Perhaps that was why Miss Ruth had acted so shy with me in the room; she wanted some alone time to gossip with my grandmother, her best friend.
Not wanting to intrude on their reunion, I exited the attic and shut its door behind me. I entered my loft and fetched my inventory log. I added a walker, a pearl necklace, a diamond breastpin, and a china tea set to the list.
As I said, I’ve always been interested in collecting things from the past, from the oldest relics to the most recently forgotten thingamabobs. Although, I prefer old relics.