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Wanda L. Harrell

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The Attic of My Mind
by Wanda L. Harrell
Saturday, March 06, 2010
Rated "G" by the Author.
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Recent poems by Wanda L. Harrell
•  I Shall
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           >> View all 210

2010, Wanda L. Harrell


© 2010, Wanda L. Harrell


As a curious child, I carefully trudged up the two centuries old flight of stairs,

Up, up the third staircase in the house to investigate treasures hidden there.

Through grime-covered windowpanes came handicapped rays of light

Into this antique attic, the house’s third floor, a most lofty height.

Pursuing tiny treasures from those who had lived long before my birth,

I sought to touch the lives of ancestors who had once walked this earth

On the far side of the room, across the dust-covered creaking floor,

Was a dark oak chifferobe boasting several drawers and a mirrored door.

In the drawers were neatly stacked fabric flour sacks, mostly floral in design,

And a ring of brass skeleton keys to unknown doors long ago left behind.


Nearby, in a dome-topped trunk located under layers of forgotten dust,

I found once polished tooth pullers, now coated with their share of rust,

An aged long, floral wedding skirt my great grandmother proudly wore,

A leather-bound law book, and yellowed love letters by the score,

A tiny pair of well-worn overalls my mother had worn when she played,

Old photographs, newspaper articles, colorful quilts long ago hand made,

My great grandfather McInturff’s oddly shaped pocket knife,

A photo of him when he was sheriff with Rhoda, his beloved wife,

A doll given to my mother by a favorite uncle many Christmases past,

All insignificant things I considered riches, but others might regard as trash.


The decades have passed, and now the only attic stairs that I climb

Are the ones that exist in the cobwebbed corners of my mind.

I oft reach up to that lofty height for small treasures stored away years ago,

Distant memories about which I want my children and grandchildren to know.

Lurking about up there, I find small stories I yearn to be repeated and told,

Like how I grew to love daffodils, Pennsylvania farmhouses, large and old,

A little girl cautiously scratching off frost from upstairs windows to peer out,

Daydreaming and night praying to one day become a Girl Scout,

Carefully reading Highlights for Children and storybooks galore,

And an angry Angus bull that chased me one day when red I wore.


In my mind is a swing my dad made on the post of my mom’s old clothesline,

Little funerals my sister and I held for butterflies and bugs of any kind,

A player piano, my mom’s Brownie box camera, lightening hitting our house,

My dad finding, after one vacation, a peanut butter foundered mouse,

Getting my head stuck between the posts of the stair rail,

Sitting and listening quietly when my dad told some big, tall tale,

Hours watching my mother carefully string beans before giving them a snap,

Quietly taking scissors to Grandma Miller’s hair when she took a nap,

Swinging high on the schoolyard swings while wishing I could fly,

And fighting back tears, not wanting anyone to see or hear me cry.


I recall walking up the hill my first day of school, not knowing where to go,

Watching my mom sitting at the treadle Singer machine, getting ready to sew,

The sound of the school bell when it began to clang with its distinctive ring,

Feeling absolutely no fear when I would dance around or sing,

Playing hopscotch, leap frog, London bridge and ring around the rosie,

Bending down to quickly pick anything that resembled a posey,

Discovering it was lots of fun to run, but more fun to skip and hop,

Riding on my dad’s shoulders, begging to go with him to the barbershop,

Wearing yellow-footed pajamas with a handy rear flap during wintertime,

And listening to the old mantle clocks as they ticked away the time.


Memories thrive of twirling around in the wide upstairs hall with juvenile flair,

Boarding a plane to Florida to visit my grandmother when flying was rare,

My dad using his bulldozer in blizzards to help rid the highways of snow,

Enjoying my mother’s home cooking, taking a warm bath nice and slow,

Treats like nickel Cokes from the store and Popsicles on a hot summer’s day

Creating weird and wonderful creatures in 1st grade from modeling clay,

Sadness on Valentine’s Day the year I came down with chicken pox,

My mother patiently combing through my long and curly dark brown locks,

The smell of dusty chalk in each classroom of my elementary school,

And in our side yard on a summer day, a green and yellow vinyl wading pool.


I remember a picnic in Gettysburg, seeing President Eisenhower pass our way,

Wanting to go beyond the fence because of sign that warned to stay away,

Quietly watching the creek water bubble and flow under the bridge,

That the name brand was Crosley on my parents’ first stove and ‘fridge,

Drinking cold spring water from a tin dipper, picking up black walnuts,

Playing games, and trying to get away with all kinds of childhood stunts,

Seeing my dad covered in sawdust when he returned from the sawmill,

Watching, as my mother prepared our meals with flair and skill,

Mom’s pink Ford station wagon and the fins of our yellow and white Cadillac,

And my sweet uncle Claude dressed as Santa Claus carrying a big ol’ sack.


Memories include my dad warning my face might freeze if I dared to pout,

Wandering into the cornfield, and fearing I would never find my way out,

Squares of Rice Krispies treats and homemade candies like fudge and toffee,

Fragile teacups my mom let us use for milk with just touch of coffee,

Learning to ride a bike with absolute wild abandon down a very steep hill,

My first record player, and my dad buying it with a crisp twenty-dollar bill,

Falling asleep in my daddy’s lap during church, dreaming without a care,

Watching my red helium filled balloon fly away at the York County Fair,

     Getting dressed, on a cold day, in front of the wood burning kitchen range,

And thinking grownups were very, very tall and often somewhat strange.


I recall watching Grandma Harrell take down the long braid from her hair,

Being little girl careful so my clothes would not get dirty or accidentally tear,

Grandpa Harrell taking Tommy, Teresa and I for pumpkins from the patch,

Puzzling as to how ferocious fire came from a little wooden match,

Sleeping in the back seat on car trips down south with my mom and dad,

Knowing I loved the taste of cherry, but licorice was distasteful and bad,

Falling asleep in my daddy’s arms while he drove the Ford tractor in the field,

And knowing, but not understanding, how he was my protector and my shield.

Yes, many decades have passed, and now the only attic stairs that I climb

Are the ones that exist in the cobwebbed corners of my mind.





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Reviewed by Mary Lacey, Desertrat 3/6/2010
This was positively beautiful! For nothing is as grand as our memories. They are priceless. I love to find old things too, or remember what I did with with my parents/grandparents. There are so many Kodak moments of the brain.


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