This is a love story that has no end.
When I was very young, my family didn’t have much in the way of money. By way of illustration, here is an early memory—
I was crossing the street with my mother and younger brother. My mother was holding both of us by the hand. In my free hand, I held my “toys”. These were cut-outs from a newspaper ad, pictures of dolls of Frankenstein, Dracula, the Werewolf, and the Mummy. We had almost made it across when I dropped my toys, broke free of my mother, and dashed out into traffic. The paper cut-outs were stuck to the wet road and I was trying desperately to free them, my mother was screaming bloody murder, and my little brother was laughing. Luckily, a meter maid was there to grab me by the ear and haul me off to the curb, using a strange sort of language I’d never heard before, but which my mother apparently spoke as well, as she continued to use it all the way home.
So. No money, no toys. We had to use out imaginations. It’s good for you, but life can still become a bit dull at times with just two sticks and a stone to play with.
Then there was the broader family situation. My father had to travel a great deal. He would be gone for days, weeks, sometimes even months. Because he had to travel, that meant that we had to travel as well, but not with him. We would move from place to place, staying with my maternal grandparents for a week or two here, paternal grandparents a week or two there, with cousins, aunts, uncles and friends of the family. My brother and I found this to be a great adventure, but it was not conducive to making long-lasting friendships with other children.
So. No money, no toys, not many friends.
Wherever it was we woke up to find ourselves, we could usually count on one thing. One day a week, while our mother did her errands, she would take us to the local library, if there was one, and leave us for an hour or so. This might seem shocking to some people today, but it was normal then. A friendly librarian would read stories to my brother and I, and a few other kids. The stories were usually as boring as a pack of hounds’ arses, but it was something to pass the time.
When we grew just a little older—maybe five and three, or six and four years of age—we were allowed to explore these libraries on our own, although the librarians would usually keep a watchful eye to ensure that we didn’t read anything inappropriate, i.e., interesting.
For the most part, they needn’t have worried. All of the libraries we visited were poorly stocked, or heavily censored, I’m not sure which.
My brother and I were not to be deterred. We already had a thirst for learning that was encouraged by both of our parents. My father was a great storyteller, but the sort of stories he told us were not to be found in the few books we had at home, and he was not around all that much in those early years of our lives. We subsisted on children’s stories and comic books.
Then, one summer, were were sent to live with our paternal grandparents.
It was only to be for a month or two. My brother wasn’t all that concerned about it, but I was; I loved my grandad, but he was distant, and like my father, not around often.
My granny was a little different.
She was a good woman in her way, but I was afraid of her, and did not want to spend that long of a stretch in her company without my parents present, but I had no choice in the matter.
The night that we were left with her, she showed us to our room and the single bed that we were to share. After saying goodnight, and before going downstairs, she turned in our doorway and said,
“Don’t go up in the attic.”
So we did.
And discovered something wonderful.
(End Pt. 1)