I remember the terror I felt as a child standing at the bottom of the stairs leading up into our attic. Darkness at the top, strange shapes, a musty odor. We pulled a string above our heads about half-way up the stairs to get the light on up there. Getting up to that step, where we could reach for the string, was truly frightening. So much darkness. Monsters undoubtedly waiting. Who knew what would get us? Once we were up there, with the lights on, things were OK. But the terror began again coming down the stairs. I’d pull that string, and then, heart-pounding, race down the remaining stairs in the darkness, never daring to look back, until I slammed the door behind me. Phew, that was close!
For me, memories of our attic are inextricably tied with another memory from childhood. One Christmas morning, in the 1950's, my mother was waiting for her favorite moment - opening the gift from Dad's millionaire friend, Norman Woolworth, a great practical joker. Often Woolworth's gifts were something elegant and luxurious, and this one - packaged in a large hat box - looked wonderfully promising. My mother was down on her knees under the tree, with the whole family gathered around. She was breathless with anticipation. She tore off the wrapping paper, lifted the lid, and out of the package, like a springing jack-in-the-box, popped a hot-pink, foam rubber bath mat. It was covered with realistic life-sized pink breasts, topped with erect, cherry red nipples. Mom shrieked "Oh Tom!" and stuffed that thing back into the box, clapping on the lid. We had all see it, and couldn't believe our eyes. We begged to see it again, but it disappeared after that one tantalizing moment. For years afterwards I searched the attic for it, convinced that it must be stored away somewhere up there, but I never found it. I think my father must have taken it to the dump. Mom would have insisted.