I can remember rummaging around in my Aunt Liz’s hot dusty attic just before a terrible summer thunderstorm hit. There was such a sense of quiet. Watching the dust motes in the sunlight. Sweating up a storm, literally. It was almost like stepping back in time. Each item bringing back a different memory of an era gone by. Baby clothes, communion veils, wedding dresses, old books, soldiers uniforms and letters…my Great Uncle Dawson’s letters home during the 1st World War. He would come back from France only to lose his 1st wife to tuberculosis then remarry, have three more children and start his own business and become my father’s hero.
I can remember going to my Aunt Liz’s home (Dawson’s only daughter) for a couple of weeks each summer. I grew up in Cleveland on the west side of the river, while Aunt Liz lived on the east side. It was like traveling to a different dimension. My Aunt Liz and Uncle Jim were also my Godparents, and treated me like a veritable princess. Liz was a stay at home Mom of the fifties she also babysat some amazing children, were talking attention deficit long before it was recognized and Uncle Jim worked for C.T.S. (Cleveland Transit System) the precursor of RTA, he was kind of like our own tall version of Jackie Gleason and trust me Liz was a near clone of Alice. She took no guff from any guy, husbands included. but boy, did she have a soft spot for kids. I can still remember walking home with my cousins from the local Mom and Pop Grocery Store on Lakeshore Boulevard approaching their house on Westropp Avenue and hearing Aunt Liz singing in the evening twilight to the little kids on the porch. This woman was composed of nine parts steel and one part fairy dust. Amazing, even now I can go there in my mind and hear her. Little kids as quiet as can be and her soft high voice carrying out on that hot summer night. To Liz, these were just kids, all different kinds of kids.
The most wonderous memory I have of that house is the Attic. I can remember aunt Liz sending me up there for Harlequin romance books. I must have been all of about twelve when I discovered one in my cousin Mary’s room. After I finished that I told Aunt Liz how much I liked it. Well, she said, check out the Attic. Attics at that time were our “Virtual Reality” machines. She said, go to the little closet door in my bedroom and open it up. You’ll find a very small set of steps that lead up. First remove all the assorted memories from the steps and then carefully (they were about 4 inches wide) take them to the Attic. Those steps are loaded with all kinds of stuff. I kind of felt like Alice in Wonderland, like I would open her little Attic door and see a bottle that said “Drink Me”.
Well I took her advice. It took me about twenty minutes to clear those steps, but boy was it worth it! She had everything up there. Liz’s Dad, my Great Uncle Dawson was a pack rat, as was his daughter. She had all her Mother’s clothes. She had everything. It truly was an amazing and wonderful way to spend sweet summer afternoons daydreaming in the attic of a woman who had the heart and imagination to let each of us move at our own speed. And the soul to keep these memories intact after all the years. She was a wonder at appreciating and holding onto pieces of people, my Godmother Liz, so like her Dad, Dawson.