I wrote this for our short story competition at work. The theme was ‘Up in the Attic’.
My Grandmother’s Attic
I keep a crackly video recording on my hard drive. Grandma Betty, the seventies queen, with purple miniskirt and beehive hair. She skips up the chapel steps with her children and smiles a smile I vaguely remember.
The small girl in me can recall her powdery perfume as I open and close her tiny jewellery boxes. In my imagination there are hundreds of these, one necklace per box; her granddaughters find them irresistible. Her bathroom is full of china frogs, and I drown them in bubbles before bedtime. She makes toast better than anyone I know. By then, she must already have been moving her things to the attic.
She moves just little things at first, as though trying to spring-clean her clutter. She forgets our names and mixes our ages. She comes home from the supermarket without her shopping. We retell these stories to make light of them, laughing at family gatherings. Soon more of her furniture is pushed upstairs: she wears two blouses at a wedding, tries to cook eggs in the kettle. Our beloved, captivating grandfather dies. Heartbroken, she still thinks he’s out for a very long walk. She knows she has lost something, but no longer knows what.
Her children, bereft, squabble amongst themselves. Grandma fidgets alone, angrily adrift in a sea of shifting impressions. She grasps for connections that sift through her fingers. There’s a stain on her skirt, and she’s lost her purse. We find it eventually in the oven.
Oh Grandma-no-longer-my-Grandma, you sit in a featureless room with the nurses downstairs and look out of the window with gooseberry eyes. No perfume, no skipping, no challenging smile. Behind her stare is a vast, empty plain – the floor neatly swept; the attic bare.