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Small Talk: Boys in the attic

The attic. In song and story, it is the exotic location of many a mystery, the discovery of a valuable heirloom or the frigid domicile of the poor, unloved orphan.

And then there is our attic.

It’s not mysterious and certainly not valuable, but for years it qualified as exotic.

I looked up the definition of exotic — “From another part of the world. Strikingly unusual.” Yes, that sounds almost right.

When we did the first walkthrough of our current home, the owner whispered gleefully, “And this is the attic! I finished it myself.”

One look at the lousy handiwork, and that was abundantly clear. He had created it, sacrificing my walk-in closet, to make room for stairs to the area for his delinquent teenaged son and a dog.

The steep stairs squeaked, it had one lonely electrical outlet, no cooling or heating vent and fleas.

Well, I thought, it’s interesting but unlikely to get much use. My children were 3 and 4, and I am a woman of little foresight.

Before I knew it, it became a playroom, but for daytime only. Each year, I would suggest that they hold their sleepovers up there, and each year, they would both look at me as if I had suggested they sleep in the morgue.

And then they hit their teens. The attic was outfitted with a television, a worthy video game set and a DVD player.

For the next couple of years, a gaggle of teenage boys would fight over the limited number of air mattresses, futons and couch cushions we dragged up there to make their sleepovers a little bit comfortable. There was never enough to go around.

And then we saw it. By the dumpster at the high school was a raggedy, abandoned pole vault mat.

Gleefully, we dragged it home behind the station wagon, and its fat inner foam soon covered the attic from wall to wall.

Next came the black lights, posters, hubcaps, silly signs, beaded curtains and lava lamps. It was all new to them, but it resembled the bedroom of every college boy I knew in the ’60s.

It was, they assured me, quite perfect. They could eat, drink, wrestle, laugh, watch movies and then sleep wherever they fell.

About once a month, I shoveled it out, changed the sheets and vacuumed, trying not to dwell on what had made its way under the foam.

The wonderful foam eventually reached a critical overuse stage and was discarded. I still miss it.

My husband thought he might find me up there one day, gibbering to myself and carving the foam into 1-by-3-foot squares.

Were it still in service, you might well find me happily stretched out on the squishy surface, surrounded by empty candy boxes, watching “Law and Order” reruns.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer with a boring, overfilled attic now. Contact her at [email protected].