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Benefits from Cleaning the Attic

“I need something from the attic,” my wife said to me the other morning as I was beginning my assault on the day’s crowded to-do list. “Could you pull down the ladder for me?”

“Oh, just a few things for my classroom. You do remember that we’re starting school soon,” she replied, as though she had not been reminding me of that fact all summer. Since the last day of the previous year, in fact. (You can take the teacher from the classroom, but you can’t get the classroom out of the teacher!)

Having pulled down the ladder, I returned to my work. An hour or so later, I suddenly missed my wife. I climbed the steps of the attic ladder to check on her.

“What’s taking you so long?”

“Oh, I just decided that while I’m up here I might as well clean up a bit. Here,” she said, sliding two boxes across the attic floor toward me. “You can help by shredding these old cancelled checks.”

I started to protest, but then I looked at the date on one check that was seeking to escape the box and its fate. Nineteen hundred ninety-one. (How long do the experts suggest one should keep old checks? Five years?)

What I at first thought might take an hour or so ended up taking most the rest of the day. I accomplished nothing on my packed to-do list.

“Go through these,” she said in her most teacher-like voice. “You don’t need to keep all of them.”

I flipped through the stack, glancing at the headlines. I witnessed history before my very eyes.


SNOWBOUND! (about a paralyzing storm that had hit East Tennessee in mid-March one year)



BUSH: GET OUT BY HIGH NOON (prelude to Operation Desert Storm)

BUSH, GORE IN NAIL-BITER (2000 presidential election)

NATIONAL TRAGEDY (9-11 terrorist attacks)

And then there was the 28-page special edition celebrating the national football championship won by the Tennessee Vols. How could I consign that historic document to the trash pile?!

I grimaced, sighed, and sadly threw the remaining two-thirds of the papers into the trash bag, including (not without great pain) the front page that exulted in UT’s come-from-behind, 35-34 win over Notre Dame.

Now my wife sees a cleaner, less-cluttered attic. The ceiling joists sigh with relief. And I see a plethora of possible writing ideas and memories. Maybe I did accomplish something that day after all. It just wasn’t on my to-do list.

Are you looking for writing ideas? Have you considered cleaning out your attic lately?

#writing #DennisLPeterson #teachers #writers #History #Memories

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