28 December 2012


Welcome back. I’m busy again. My wife, Vicki, got back from Wisconsin, where’s she’s been assisting her father, Muns. She’s been staying in the apartment over the garage next to the farmhouse, where Muns has lived most of his life (see 24 June 2011 post, Home Renovation).

Warren’s father-in-law, Muns, on
tractor, with farmhouse (and attic)
in rear, ca. 1950.
The farmhouse and garage, a former barn then carriage house, were built over 100 years ago. (The best estimate of how many years beyond 100 is “lots.”) Although the wiring and pipes may be eclectic and dicey, the structures are solid, bottom to top.

At the top, the house attic is a collector’s paradise. One finds the expected National Geographic and Life magazines, books, clothes, furniture, lamps and sundry castoffs from Vicki, her sister, Cam, and parents. In addition, as ancestors, relatives and friends passed away, what wasn’t bequeathed, given, used or tossed might also have found its way up the wide, curving stairwell.

Pathways through the collection are much improved since Cam and Vicki began their sporadic discovery and reduction quests. Exemplifying treasures they’ve unearthed are two large, beautifully painted and ornately framed oil portraits of…well, no one knows.

Growing Up

The attic of the Upstate New York house that sheltered me from age 2 until college had wooden flooring down its center and a large cedar wardrobe off on one side. The rest was mostly uncovered loose insulation between the joists.

That attic was accessed by stairs that began in a closet-size storage area behind a door from the kitchen. The telephone was near the attic door, and I would sit on the attic stairs with the door squeezing the telephone cord, holding as private a conversation as one could have on a party line. (Raise your hand if you don’t know what party line is.) Private lines became available before I reached high school.

My most vivid memory of that attic was not of the stairs or attic per se, but of my uncle’s leg sticking through the living room ceiling when he stepped in the wrong spot.

First Houses

The first house I owned–the modular house that hated me (see 9 Nov post, House Sound Check)--had no attic that I was aware of. If it did, storing anything that high above the house’s center of gravity would surely have toppled the house.

My second house--the one with the rainfed private lake in the basement--had a large empty attic, accessed by a pull-down wooden ladder through a bedroom ceiling hatch. We added a sheet of plywood as flooring on one or the other side of the hatch to store anything that couldn’t float and we might never need.

The first house in the Washington, DC, area was outsized with abundant storage space throughout. The attic was a very welcoming, comfortable space, with full flooring; however, since visits to the attic required lugging a ladder from the garage to reach the ceiling hatch, I wasn’t up there very often.

Wrap Up

Looking up at the attic ceiling hatch.
And here we are in another Washington, DC, area house that requires a ladder to visit the attic. I’ve been up there twice: once, when we bought the house; later, to inspect new insulation. Some attics are boring--no character, portraits, legs or easy access, just insulation and a place to vent. Maybe we should move to a Wisconsin farmhouse.

Thanks for stopping by.

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