The Attic

Behind the huge door of my grandparents’ apartment building, a world of mystery, adventure and excitement lay hidden. From the outside, the majestic, white, three-story building appeared calm and peaceful with its undisturbed row of leaded windows. However, as soon as I heard the large and heavy wooden door close behind me, leaving the busy street noises out, I knew I had entered an unknown territory ready for me to explore.

There, at the bottom of the staircase, my journey began. As I was climbing the stairs, the sweet and mellow smell of fresh pipe tobacco and newly hand rolled cigars welcomed me even before my grandmother did. The aroma that I knew so well came from the tobacco shop on the ground floor.

My first stop was the tall hallway that seemed endless as the stairs continued their climb towards higher grounds. After the formal greeting with one of the natives, my grandmother, I dashed by her through the double doors that led to the living room. Here, my goal was to get to the big chestnut brown leather couch, where the other native, my grandfather, took his late afternoon nap. But in order to get there I had to jump from one Oriental rug to the next, thus securing myself from the waters in between. I felt the heat from the roaring fireplace, and it was with great contentment that I rested for a little while in the bosom of a brown leather chair.

As I was scanning the room, my eyes fell upon the large wooden desk, where a small family of brass ducks had settled down, and everywhere, on the desk as well as hanging on the walls, were pipes, telling me stories without the mouths they had visited. My favorite one was the long pipe with the pretty pipe head made of hand painted china. The scene showed a pasture with roaming deer, which made me believe the pipe had belonged to a hunter. As the twilight fell upon the room, I looked across it to see the other staircase that lead to the upper boundaries.

Before I could start the dangerous part of my journey, I had to join my grandparents in the large dining room for supper. The dining room table could hold at least twenty people and still allow them adequate room for dining. I was placed on the bench along one side of the table against the wall. Across from me, a row of single chairs were lining the other side of the table, and grandmother sat in the one across from me. There, in between us, at the end of the table, grandfather prevailed, only competing with the grand looking gentleman on the painting above him. From the kitchen an aroma of curry and mango chutney travelled down through the long hall, passing several bedrooms on its way to the dining room, where it would tickle my nose and water my mouth as well as mingle with my desire to seek adventures on the third floor.

Time for bed! Which route should I choose? The one through the entry hallway or the one through the living room? Challenging myself, I chose the trail through the living room, where, at the top of the stairs, I knew danger lurked in the shape of a sinister looking painting of death. The scene showed Death coming to visit a sick person in bed.

Once I had passed this obstacle, I was safe and sound in my room with the door securely shut behind me. Here, I could rest for the night, well knowing that on this very floor was the attic, the ultimate frontier to explore. As soon as I lay down, tucked into my own queen size bed, my mind started wandering into the attic, a preferred action over actually entering the premises. The grandfather clock across the room ate the time away, and over by the windows, voices crept through the panes, then exploded in a roar or a howl, making me slide further down under the comforter, even though I knew of the restaurant across the street. Falling asleep, I envisioned the attic where I knew only snakes ruled. One of grandfather’s greater pleasures was to get a snakeskin from the attic and then tell us about its capture in Indonesia. The biggest one I saw was at least a dozen meters long and very capable of devouring a human child.

Maybe one day I would be bold enough and have the courage to fulfill my innermost desire: to plant my feet in the attic, at least when accompanied by my grandmother – and in broad daylight! It never did happen, though, and every time I think of this majestic, white, three-story building, I wonder what was hidden in the attic.

About Elizabeth Stokkebye

Spent childhood and youth in Denmark. Lived and worked forty years in the US. Now, living my senior years in Denmark. Always the artist.
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