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On a cold, rainy day, when it’s not nice enough to work outdoors, cleaning out the attic is a worthy endeavor. Every year I have good intentions to do this, but the Road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions. For once, this year I strayed from that road, at least in this regard. As a bonus, I uncovered a trove of treasure.

A genetic trait of the Rogers family is the propensity to save things. This goes back three generations, probably more. We are not hoarders as such. We just save anything that might be useful someday. This is a survival skill. Have you ever discarded or given away something you never use, only to need it six months later? That’s why we save things. My father used to make fun of me. He once accused me of saving old toilet paper. He was only exaggerating, of course (another family trait – have you noticed?) but he was a great one to talk. My widowed mother, who does not carry the trait, has been sorting through his stuff for over six years and there’s no end in sight.

My house has three attics, so imagine the trouble I can leave my heirs. In the little attic above my kitchen, I store holiday decorations. This winter I cleared everything out of there, including all the dirt and debris. I reorganized the Christmas stuff and stored it neatly in one area. There were a few boxes of Easter baskets and Thanksgiving decorations, plus some camping equipment and luggage. These were easily dealt with. Then I had to contend with an unbelievable pile of empty boxes, Styrofoam peanuts, and other packing material. Much of that was  recycled  or thrown away, but it’s wise to keep some in case I want to mail a package. Wise, but even wisdom needs its limits. I can’t keep ALL of it.

Last, but not the least challenging, was the large box of Halloween costumes. If you are a student of ancient history, you may remember when Curtis Mathis TVs had the longest warranty on the market. Well, I still have my TV and it still works. It came in a huge box which had sat in my attic full of Halloween things for over twenty years. I cannot recall when I last sorted through it.

I remembered many of the costumes stored there: a clown/scarecrow suit, some monster masks, square dance apparel complete with pantaloons and petticoats, and some tunics that could serve as Indian or medieval costumes. There were several half-surprises, things I had nearly forgotten: a box of grease paint (from my college days!), a variety of hats crushed by time, a battered wig, a wine skin, blouses from the hippie days, clothes from the 80s, and some men’s coveralls.

Then came the forgotten surprises. One old hat has a band made from a real rattlesnake hide. A plastic Transformers mask, perhaps Optimus Prime, had survived from the 80s. I found a straight jacket made of muslin, a hospital gown, and several almost doll-sized garments, including a little red and white cheerleader skirt. I made these for my girls when they were little. Very little. Several things may have started out as clothing later to become costumes: large full skirts, a garish pair of shorts like the surfing shorts popular in the 80s, a rather nice leather jacket “Custom Tailored in Hong Kong”, a wrap-around (and around and around) skirt, and some thrown-together pieces, costumes for fantasy characters.

It was fascinating to go through everything, trying to remember who wore them and when. But what should I do with them now? If I boxed them up, they could remain forgotten for another twenty years.

In another attic I found a solution. A clothes rack held old prom dresses, majorette outfits, and some coats and blouses. Many of those are an appropriate addition to a costume collection, so I unloaded the rack and set it up in the kitchen attic. I sorted through everything and restored the gowns and other articles to the rack. Then I hung up all the other costumes. The rack is very full. There is no room for anything else. Maybe I can find good homes for some items. Maybe my children will want some of them.

I threw out the old paper ghosts and pumpkins and even the grease paint and the old Curtis Mathis box. Everything has its life span. The few salvageable Halloween treasures now fit into a smaller box.

Today my attic looks less like a trash heap and more like those old attics you see in movies, festooned with period costumes. Everything is still dusty and could use a good laundering. After that has been accomplished, a fun thing to do on a rainy afternoon would be to introduce my granddaughters to the attic and let them go treasure hunting.

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