Starting in the attic: My mother and father bought their house in the mid-1960s. There was an old storefront with a 4-room apartment in the back, on the second floor there were two 4-room apartments, on the top and attic with a slanty roof and a mansard front. The compartments under the eaves held treasures from the family who lived there previously. One such object of wonder, multiples actually, were pink crepe party hats, tassel on the top, with gold paper trim around the rim, and a rubber band to fit under your chin. Inside was a cardboard pull that popped a cap and revealed a riddle when you tugged the end. Only a couple survive now. Most were thrown away when my mother had a leaky roof replaced.
Also intriguing were packets of photography chemicals in packets. Thankfully my brothers and I never ate them although it was certainly a consideration. Postcards that would now been 100 years old with elegant, spidery handwriting, etched by fountain pens, teal stamps in the corner. In a house my brother Iggy and I bought together, a man who lived there wrote multiple postcards home recording how many miles from home he was. All gone.
Back at my parents, green plastic mermaid swizzle sticks or toothpicks? for olives?, "naughty" playing cards--red lipsticked girl in skimpy aqua nightie, a plaster statue of a ballerina. Tenants left behind other things-- 2 lamps with plaster floral bases, each flower with a small light bulb, little shop of horrors-esque. My mother's books, my father's war medals in an altar like construction of his that I disassembled and couldn't put back together, a soft teal, leaf-patterned, wool tug underfoot. Letters from relatives in Poland that took 2 weeks to arrive sections censored out, from an aunt in England asking many questions about grocery prices, daily activities as my dad's last brother and his family contemplated emigrating to the United States. Formal photographs of my father etched with the retouching notes from the photographer. what else? Bow ties, one worn in the formal photo, blue tie with silver tread, the sheerest cotton voile shirt, many of my father's clothes were given away--a navy overcoat remade to fit my tall, thin brother who had his same first name.
Skipping over the middle and down the steep stairs into the basement: A compound regret of mine, smashing an old, tin train with a brick until it was totally crushed looking, then curiosity satisfied, and guilt activated, sneaking out into the alley and throwing it into a metal garbage drum. Regret averted: Busting my brothers while they were playing with matches and setting phone books on fire. I doused the flames and diverted them from further arsonist activity.