Adventures in the attic

Jean Gillette is taking a week off. Here is a column from 1998 to enjoy again.

It was time for the trip into the dusty attic, an annual chore I look upon with equal parts of pleasure and dismay. I pull cobwebs from my hair for hours after we emerge. I had put it off, hoping to clean the house before sprinkling it with holiday bedecking, but my children would stand for no more delay. It was time to haul out the Christmas decorations.

It has always been an event loaded with the sweetest memories. As a child, no matter where we were transferred, no matter how different the living room looked from the year before, the boxes and barrels of bright, shiny ornaments were a constant in our lives. Somehow they always made the trips unbroken, keeping the same wonderful, musty smell and reassuring glimmer.

One year it would be mom’s traditional red and gold with a green tree.

The next, my dad’s white tree decorated in blue and silver with meticulous shimmering layers of that now-forbidden lead tinsel, that had the weight to hang with authority.

Now my children take equal delight in re-creating our tree each year.

They love that I put their crumply, frayed creations from their early school years right smack in front.

Little photos of shining faces and small, sweet handprints fill me with such happy recollections.

Even better, they love the ornaments passed on to us or given to us by their grandparents. The cross-stitched mailboxes, trains and bears never fail to remind us that we are greatly loved. Some ornaments from special friends have the children’s names and annual dates on them, making me sharply aware of how quickly whisks by since their first Christmases. Every ornament we possess was given us or made for us by someone we care about. It makes for a very off-balance, mismatched, theme-less but delightful final product.

My favorite attic discovery was at the bottom of an ornament barrel that had been with us every Christmas of my life. One day, after it was passed along to me by my mother, I idly pulled the newspaper out of the bottom and found it dated Dec. 12, 1943. My mother explained that the barrel had been her father’s, first filled with supplies from his days in wood-floor laying. I felt a strong, lovely connection to the grandfather I never knew as I realized that he must have folded and stuffed that paper at the bottom of the barrel just a few years before he died. Reading the funny advertisements and prices of 55 years go fascinates me, as well.

Whatever peripheral madness may befall me this time of year, my children force me to pause, rediscover and awaken the heart of the season from up in the dusty attic.

Jean Hart Gillette is a freelance writer and occasional Grinch. Contact her at jgillette@coastnewsgroup.com.

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