Southern Living is about more than home-cooked Sunday dinners, church and being raised with good strong traditional morals. It's about tradition, family, bonds, holding on to the memories of our past and keeping the memories of our ancestors alive. No matter if you're southern-born or have just moved into the south the heritage and our simple southern ways just seem to take a deep root inside everyone it touches. A warm feeling of being at home fills them to their core after they have experienced our small town hospitality first hand.
Among the many traditions, my mother and my grandmother passed down to me, there is one that they saw as mandatory every spring. No matter if the weather was rain, snow, or shine the annual event of spring cleaning is a deep-rooted belief among my family as well as most of the townsfolk here.
Scour, sweep, dust and tossing away things that I no longer can find of use are the main objects of the event. The entire purpose of it all is so that the warm months of the new year we have freshly begun start off clean, organized and with room for any sort of things we may bring home with us.
The dividing of the chores is a normal act within my family. The eldest is always tasked with the most important chore and so on down to the youngest who has either the chore no one else wants or the easiest depending on their work ethic. My sister Joanna is considered the eldest among us this year since our older brother Jacob moved out in December. This will start a chain of reaction of all of us moving up a slot on the chore list. I find my name on the list posted on the refrigerator and run my finger from my name "Chloe" to the chore which reads "organize and dust Attic".
A sense of pride is filling me up as I think about all the treasures over the years that have been stored for safekeeping up in the Attic. These are treasures that really have no monetary value, but to me are worth more than anything because they are priceless. They are stories told by our ancestors and by just examining them I feel like I'm right there within them in their time period. I've always been the one who sat at my Poppy's feet to listen to the wonders of his youth and would try to imagine myself in the settings he would describe. My momma always told me that my creative imagination was my strongest talent and what made my individual personality so bright. So when I saw I would be cleaning a sacred place for my imagination to roam wild with images filled with years worth of family treasures I only smiled brightly ready to begin.
With an old cleaning rag in hand, I opened the Attic door and stepped into the room that excites me the most. Dust feels my nostrils and the musky scent of stuffiness is strong, but I don't mind at all. I feel as though I've stepped into a bank vault filled with things that are valuable and precious. I look from the left far side of the room and let my vision scan all the way to the far right side of the room. I want to touch everything at once, but I know I must do this right and I can only think of one thing that I don't know where to start.
At that very moment, a large wooden handcrafted chest catches my eye from the south wall in the attic room. It doesn't have any special designs, or embellishments to make it stand out. Actually, the trunk is rather plain, but the rough texture tells me someone took a lot of time to create this chest from just pieces of wood.
The urge to run my hand over the surface catches me off guard and before I know what I'm doing I start feeling the texture under my palm while cleaning away the dust with my other hand. Curiosity has always been one of my faults. I just can't seem to stop myself when I find a curious interest in something. This is the way I am viewing the chest. To me, it's the most interesting object in the room and my curiosity is maxed out beyond the normal limit.
As always my deep interest and the wanting to know what treasures from the past holds win in the end. Slowly I open the lid of the chest so I may look inside at the contents. The very first item on top is the furthest I go to my adventure of plunder. It's a lavender sweater made from light cotton and I recognize it. This piece of clothing is from the past, but it's a very recent past that I personally remember very well. The owner of the sweater is why I just sit staring at it, wanting to pick it up, but I can't seem to make my hands follow through. This lavender item belongs to my momma, Dreama Jameson, who died last year due to advanced-stage breast cancer.
Finally, I force myself to pick it up and I can't seem to stop putting it on to wear. Once I have it on I feel safe, secure and I feel as though I can feel my mother's warm embrace through the sweater. A day hasn't passed by I haven't missed her and I sometimes even forget she's gone only to remind myself of what happened when I realize I'm looking for her. This sweater is a story while it's stored in the attic and only stories of people that only existed in the past, not the present dwells here. Seeing this just seems to make me realize it's all real and that she is never coming back.
Before I consider taking it off to put back in the chest I stick my hands in the sweater pockets. In the right pocket, I feel something made of paper and pull it out to see what it is. Looking down I see an old wallet-sized photograph and the two people I recognize instantly. In the photo, I see my momma and she is swinging the newborn infant me to sleep. I turn the photo to the back and in my mother's handwriting, the year 1986 are scrawled.
Even though I don't mean to I can't stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks. The feeling of loss, loneliness, and emptiness are unbearable at times I just can't make them fade away no matter what I do. I would give anything just to be able to talk to her one last time or to have one last hug from her so that I know everything is going to be fine. No matter how much I want it to happen it doesn't and this sweater is the closest thing I've had in a year of any type of contact from the woman who created me inside her very own body.
I put the sweater back into the chest and close the lid. Wiping away the tears that spilled this attic today for my mother and slide the photo in my own pocket to keep with me. I resume my spring cleaning on the Attic and now I clean without the feeling of loss eating away at me. Instead today I am cleaning with the feeling of love and everlasting love for my momma who now resides in our Attic of treasures.