Dust filtered down when I pulled down the ladder to the attic, and more of it was covering the l rungs. I should have brought a mask with me. The dust was even thicker at the top, covering everything in gray, thick ropes of it hanging in places. That was just how I remembered it: boxes covered in dust. There were a few new ones toward the front, but not many. Jess must have carried them up; my parents would have had a hard time even getting up there by themselves.
I brought things down to open them up. There were some of Jess’s high school things, diploma, gown, trophies, that sort of thing. I laughed while looking through the pictures. Jess hated green but she had to suck it up for graduation and put on a big smile anyway. And she probably spent more time getting her hair done for those pictures than she had spent on it the entire rest of her life. It was easy to forget that she didn’t always buzz it. I threw it all back in the box with a sigh. They weren’t worth anything to anyone but Jess, they went in the pile to keep though.
My school stuff was up there too. When I still thought that I would find the perfect person and have the perfect family. The superlative I got from my soccer team: “Marathoner.” I was always running up and down the field, always helping on offense and defense. That was before I got fat, and my knees started hurting. There were some paintings in there too, right at the bottom. I looked at them for awhile. If I saw a high school student paint them, I would actually think they had talent. I gave that up when I went to college, though. It was more important to get a science degree than do what I loved. I shoved it all back inside. It wasn’t valuable to anyone. Still, it was hard to throw away.
Halfway through the attic and I hadn’t found anything good. Old puzzles that were probably missing pieces, toys that couldn’t compete against anything with a microchip in it, some clothes that didn’t fit anyone. Maybe someone would actually want the clothes. It all ended up in the donation pile, let them decide.
I found my mother’s wedding dress. The front was all dusty, but it was still nice. It was hard to imagine my mother in it though. Not the doughy, middle-aged woman that I knew growing up, or the frail old woman that I knew at the end. It was a dress made for someone still young, with more ahead of her than behind, someone I had never really known.
There were photos of my parents that I had never seen before; wedding photos, photos that must have been from their honeymoon, photos of them in a house that I never knew, photos with friends that I never met. It was strange, thinking about how much they had lived before I was born. And how little I had lived in that same amount of time. It felt like people used to have so much more urgency to their lives, like they didn’t let life just pass them by.
I wanted to be like them. I wanted to grab life by the horns and never let go. But it felt like I was always just searching for the horns. How did people used to find them so easily?
I loaded all of the boxes into my rented truck.
Goodwill took the one pile of boxes without even looking inside them. I didn’t bother getting a receipt for them.
I stuck the rest into storage with all of the other stuff I had saved. Jess would look through it all when she got a chance. She would be able to live in the past for a time, as I had. But then what to do with it all? I had no place to display it, and no one else who would be interested in it anyway. It would probably end up just staying there: too valuable to throw away, but no place it actually belonged.
Like so many things.