I moved the dishrag around and around the plate, but my mind was on the paperback book tucked in my housecoat pocket.
I’d wash a glass or two, wipe my hands on the rough chenille robe, and take the book out to read the cover once again, cocking my ear to the back porch where Mama was washing clothes on her wringer type washing machine. Singing “Rock of ages, cleft for me,” she fed the dripping shirts through the wringers. When her singing stopped, I couldn’t gage her position so I shoved the book back and washed a few more dishes.
Finally she gathered the laundry basket piled high with wet clothes and went down the back door steps. I dried my hands and escaped. Mama hadn’t reached the clothes line in the back yard before I’d scooted up those tall narrow stairs and dashed for my favorite childhood thing—my nest up in the attic. I’d made it of old discarded quilts and pillows.
To the left of my nest, a stack of books sat precariously balanced on a bare floor joist. Nancy Drew, The Land They Fought For, Huckleberry Finn, Peyton Place, and a couple of Mama’s forbidden True Story magazines comprised that particular stack. In my hand I held my first copy of Zane Grey. To the right where the floor was solid, duct-taped boxes of Christmas ornaments waited for the proper season to come round again. Rows of shelves lined the walls, and each dusty shelf held rows of grimy mason jars full of peaches, beans, tomatoes, yellow summer squash and white onions canned against the winter. All the seasons lived in our attic, but not concurrently.
Carefully tiptoeing onto the bare ceiling joists, I heard Daddy’s admonition echoing in the empty attic, “Mary Ann, stay away from that corner. It has no flooring. If you miss the joists, you’ll fall right through the sheetrock into the living room. That would be a catastrophe indeed.”