When I look back on my childhood memories I first recollect the smells, light, weather, shapes, sounds and tastes. Instead of remembering exactly what I found in my Grandmother’s attic, I first remember how light flickered through one small window. Outside wooden stairs, creeping up the back of the salt box house, creaked with each foot fall. A worn padlock half threaded through a failing latch was easy to remove. Inside, a dim light bulb dangled from a somewhat shredded black cord that plugged into a rigged outlet in the ceiling. Grandma’s attic stored many old chests, trunks, dolls and bedding where a musky odor wafted in the air as dust mites quivered in the refracted rays from that bug spattered small window. Cobwebs draped like fancy lace crocheted from the rafters of this rectangular room, with it’s steeply pitched ceiling. A silvery breeze slipped through it’s bare board walls. I liked feeling something beyond the confines of my young self but I did not know what that was.
I liked quiet natural sounds and smells as a child. I still find solace in soft breezes, cricket songs, frogs courting, the fall of water or rain, bird songs and the nearly silent tread of deer in the forest and swift squirrels rushing between the fallen leaves of trees.
Looking back I believe it was in these quiet spaces that my imagination was fertilized. I remember piles of quilts on the round iron framed beds but I don’t have a clear picture of their patterns or colors. I know I liked rummaging through the trunks, for what I don’t recall. I kind of remember waking up beneath a deep pile of quilts and feather ticks, with a cold nose, fingers and toes. Even in summer, freezing temperatures were not uncommon in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I made sure I went to the out-house before the sun went down because the path to it was scary and cold as the spooky shadows of night settled in.
Grandma & Grandpa did not have running water or indoor plumbing. The iron pump, about the size of a neighborhood fire hydrant was faded red and required priming until the water no longer came out rusty. I liked pumping water into tin buckets that we warmed on the wood stove, several at a time to get enough to pour into the round galvanized tub, The tub balanced on the seats of four oak chairs faced together in the kitchen. Quilts nailed and hung in the walk through doorways between the kitchen, the living room and a couple of bedroom doorways were pulled shut.
I had helped lug in a load of pine logs for the big cook stove and earlier that day helped Grandma peel apples for a pie. The delicious smell of cinnamon and sweetness baking mingled with pine in the air, as all of us kids bathed, one at a time in the same bath water, next to the baking pie.
If this was a daily routine, my memories wouldn’t be so vivid. But it was extraordinary, novel, consequently infused deeply into the memory of my senses. I’m glad I haven’t spoken much of this because this memory is still fresh as a young child’s heart.
Because of our individualized reactions to stimuli each of our memories will be somewhat different. I’m thrilled to be helping people conjure up memories for Skydancer Productions Life Story Videos.