Treasures In The Attic


Every house in Morea had an attic. They were a necessity. The row houses were small considering each house held an average of 6 to 8 children and at times, a live-in grandmother or grandfather. It wasn't unusual for 5 people to share one bedroom as was the case in our family. Any overflow had to in the attic, occasionally a child or two slept there.

The entrance to our attic was via a square hole in the ceiling of our bedroom. A portable ladder lay against one wall. In order to enter the attic, one had to place the ladder against the opening which was kept closed by a small door held in place with hinges. One merely bad to push against it to enter.

This was my favorite place. To find a quiet place in a household of 11 people was a luxury. Time was also sparse, everyone had chores. During those precious moments, time attic was my favorite retreat. Adults could barely stand upright where the beams peaked but there was plenty of space for kids. Light came from two windows on either side, so that in mid day one could easily probe the attic and it's treasures. In addition to an assortment of stored seasonal clothes, there were comforters, old shoes, lamps, books written in Polish and old pictures. There were also two large trunks. One belonged to my grandmother and the second to my mother. These were the trunks that curried all their belongings and treasures from the ''old'' country.

The contents of the trunk were also a source of great temptation.. I was eight years of age and going to school. Although I was a good student, I was very self conscience because I didn't have the same things that the other girls had. My clothes were hand made and I wore boys shoes. All the girls had ribbons in their hair or tied in their braids. Grandmother secured my braids with string. We were poor and this gnawed at my self esteem.

Ma's trunk contained a beautiful hat with a wide blue ribbon. She had purchased the hat two years earlier when she was asked to be godmother for her sisters child. She wanted to look nice and she did. For two years it lay in the trunk, untouched and unworn.

My desire and impulses were overwhelming. I pulled the ribbon from the hat and made bows. I would leave the house in the morning with the bows in by pocket. Then I would stop in the out-house and put the bows in my hair. On my way home from schools I would remove them.

One year later Ma had an opportunity to wear her hat and found it pulled apart. She cried and I cried with her because I felt so badly. I didn't get spanked because I didn't own up to it, and this commanded my guilt.

My oldest sister, Mary was always “good with her hands''. About 6 months after the incident, I was with Mary and she bought some more pale blue ribbon with twenty cents that I has saved- penny by penny from picking berries.. she redid the hat and we presented it to Ma on her birthday. Ma was surprised and very, very proud.

I can recall another shameful incident that occurred about the same time. Grandmother had a beautiful velvet cape in her trunk that tied in front and was decorated with beads. All my friends had store-bought beads. It was a rainy day. Jealousy and pride prevailed, and I removed the beads and later strung them on string. Again my treasure had to be concealed. Grandmother never did wear the cape. With our cold blistery weather she preferred more substantial clothing. My misdeed was never discovered as the cape lay at the bottom of the trunk covered with other clothes and treasures.

Grandmother was small and always very neat. She had the nicest clothes when she came from Europe. She was originally from a very poor family. It was my grandfather's (Alexander Malinowski) family that was well educated and had the resources that had allowed a her those past luxuries.

Grandmother had many small hats that she kept in the trunk.. These sat on the top of her head. Most had bows on the side, and ribbons that tied under her chin. Unlike Ma she wore her hats regularly. As kids we loved to try them on but we never pulled them apart--she would have noticed!

Every Saturday, when the weather permitted, Grandmother would walk the 31/2 hilly mites to Mahanoy City it and she always wore one of her hats. She would day overnight with one of her friends. After Sunday Mass she would walk the 3 1/2 mites back to the patch.

Grandmother was an amazing, courageous, and uncomplaining woman. I always admired her.