The most interesting thing I ever found in my mother’s old attic was an empty box. When I was a little girl, we moved from Toronto to Victoria Island, BC. We lived in a huge, white house that was half bordered by forest, and half bordered by beach. We owned acres upon acres of land, so there weren’t any other people around for miles. I grew up playing on my own, being my own best friend, and becoming very independent. I loved the outdoors, we lived in a beautiful and peaceful place, but my favourite place in the world was my mother’s attic.
It was just the two of us from day one; my father would have gladly been a part of my life, for a price. My mom was from rich blood. And when she fell in love with my father, she was only seventeen, and very naïve. She believed he loved her, but in the end he proved to be a con. He was using her for her money, and ended up getting away with much of it. Luckily, my mother wasn’t one of those snobs who did nothing but bask in the glorious riches their parents made for them. Throughout her life, she had been a writer, a fashion designer, an artist, a dancer and a photographer. A real renaissance woman.
She successfully carried all of these careers, and made a name for herself. I loved her for that. We travelled everywhere for years, but for some reason when we moved to Victoria Island … she stayed.
The reason I loved her attic so much was that all of her belongings were up there. All of her earliest work, her mannequin’s and fabrics, paints and brushes, random trinkets she had collected around the world. There were so many things up there, and every one of those things represented a piece of my mom. I once found an old diary of hers, I was seven years old.
I brought it down from the attic one morning and set it on the table at breakfast, she smiled at me. “What is it?” I asked her. She got up from the table and walked over to me, leant over my chair and opened the diary.
“It’s a diary, it’s where you write all of your secrets and dreams and feelings.”
“Why would you want to do that?”
She chuckled under her breathe and said “So that one day, you can look back at it and just… remember.”
I stayed up all night reading it. That’s when I started my own diary.
Although there were many various knick-knacks and do-dads I found up there in her attic, that inspired me to this day. One late autumn evening, I was up in the attic trying on old clothing samples my mother had designed in her early teen years. I was about ten years old and even by this time, I had only made my way through half of the boxes, knick-knacks and do-dads in the attic. I found one amazing dress that I absolutely loved, and decided to try it on.
The dim-lit attic didn’t provide sufficient enough light for me to admire myself in the dress, it felt like it fit perfectly, but I wanted to be exactly sure. I looked around and noticed, through cracks between ceiling-high piles of boxes, a slit of light. I pushed through the clutter and followed it. I reached a small window, and a tiny cleared area. After a second of admiring myself in the light, I looked down and noticed a little, heart-shaped, golden box.
I was mesmerized. I grabbed the box, wondering what was inside. I slowly untwisted the lock. I gently lifted the lid back, and tilted my head to peek inside. All of a sudden… there was nothing. I flipped open the lid and turned the box upside down. I was flushed with disappointment. I decided to ask my mother about the box. When I brought it down to breakfast the next morning, my mother stopped right in her tracks. She was more still than the forest behind our house, yet as restless as the ocean waves crashing on the beach out front. When I finally asked her what it was, she sat down beside me, teary-eyed, and said.
“Your father gave me this.” She held the box, and smiled lightly.
“When he first gave me it, I thought he had proposed.” She laughed under her breathe. “I looked at him
like he was crazy, and yet, when I opened it the box was empty!”
“Why did he give you an empty box?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
“He said, it represented my heart. And it turns out… it was filled with something. Something you can’t see… he told me, he had filled with love.”
She shed a few tears, forced a smile, and continued.
“It’s not filled with that anymore.”
I was filled with sadness seeing my mother crying. Remembering that my father wasn’t a part of my life, I was filled also with sadness for myself. I tried to break the silence with an explanation.
“Maybe you held the box open too long, and all the love spilled out. Maybe you just need to replace it with something.” I grabbed the box, and I held it in both hands. I closed my eyes. My mother stared at me, I could feel her puzzled gaze. After a few moments, I closed the box as fast as I could. I smiled at her as I locked it back up.
“Honey,” she smirked. “It can’t be filled back up with love.”
“That’s fine, Mom.” I replied to her. And I hopped down from my chair to leave the kitchen. “I’ve filled it with dreams. Promise you’ll protect them?”
She smiled and nodded at me, and I scurried back up to the attic.