Oh, That Felt Good!

For about thirty years, we accumulated things in the attic. When we moved to this house, back in 1978, the attic was huge! One Christmas my brother and his wife used it for a bedroom, as we had more people than beds that week. It was great.

You can see a stack of empty tubs behind all the other stuff!

You can see a stack of empty tubs behind all the other stuff!

Life changes. We quit cross country skiing. The skis, poles, shoes and equipment went upstairs. Then there were boxes of receipts, cancelled checks, and tax returns to keep, and where better to keep them than in the attic? You cannot believe how many baby toys and clothes can fit into a couple dozen plastic tubs. When Lon moved out, we disassembled his big bunk bed and pushed the pieces into a corner of the attic. When Mara left for college her miscellaneous detritus moved upstairs, too. When the grand children outgrew their clothes, we got even more boxes.

By the time I left IBM in 2012 it was almost impossible to get into the attic, let alone find the cross country ski equipment. We were awash in old photo albums, souvenirs from the trip to Europe, and way too much other stuff accumulated from relatives who had left this world. We could feel the presence of all that stuff in the attic above our bedroom.

Last winter we took about one day per week to haul things out of the attic. Many of the choices were difficult. Some of the discoveries were wonderful. There was one whole box of letters I had received while in college. I had forgotten that my brothers had written letters to me back in the day. They were great reads. Then into the trash.

Before moving on to the next topic here, I need to talk a bit about all those letters. Most were only one or two pages long, usually hand written. As a rule, they were quite banal, talking about the weather, who had visited last week, asking when I’d be home, or what minor incident happened at work the prior day. As I read them I felt a tug back to today. It was exactly like reading a Facebook timeline! Doesn’t anything change in this world?

Back to the story.

The next to go from the attic was the bunk bed. Our friend Don took the red elm parts of the bunk bed for his wood working. Marcus took the plywood for another project. Brent sold the ski equipment at a garage sale. Mara got several tubs of baby boy clothes. There were dozens of trips to Goodwill.

Toby's Cabins, Park Rapids, MN

Toby’s Cabins, Park Rapids, MN

The best find of all was the box of cancelled checks. In those days the bank returned all checks after they had been paid. We dutifully kept them all in a huge cardboard box. If there was ever a poster child for things unneeded, it’s a box of cancelled checks from over forty years ago! As I dumped the hundreds of checks into a garbage bag, one lone check leaped out and drifted to the floor just out of reach. I almost ignored it, but eventually had to pick it up, at least to throw it out! The check was written on the James River National Bank on June 19, 1971 to Toby’s Cabins. That ten dollars paid for our honeymoon night in Park Rapids, MN. What a thrill for that specific check to jump out!

Now we can walk freely around the attic. There is much more to unload, but it sure feels good to start cleaning it out. Those things, especially the souvenirs, are so ephemeral. Most of them don’t mean much after a couple of years. Then there are those souvenirs from the Montreal Olympics. And our trip to Europe. They are still in a box. Someday I will open that box and write the story of those trips.

Cleaning the attic may have given me the most satisfaction of any project of that year! There is much more to do. There are many more things to examine and throw out. Grandpa Guy Havelick


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