Attic holiday remembered | Mark’s Remarks


I’ve told you before about my little apartment when I was in college. I found out about this upstairs apartment from a co-worker at my part time job and after hearing the price, I took the place sight unseen.  

I knew my co-worker’s parents and thought they were solid people. This place had to be awesome.

It was a great place. It had originally been built as extra income in the house of my friend’s grandparents. When they moved to town from the farm, they built a house and outfitted the upstairs to be a living space. It had a tiny kitchen and a tiny bathroom. There was a tiny bedroom and a tiny living room. That was it.

As I said, when I heard the rent was cheap and that water and heat were paid for, I jumped at the chance to live there. The person who was vacating the place was gracious, and I hot-footed it over to see my new digs.  When I got to the top of the stairs, I noticed something that could be potentially challenging: there were about eight inches of room between the top of my head and the ceiling.

I think I once told you about nearly knocking myself unconscious when I jumped a little to put on a pair of pants. You know that little jump you do when you are putting on a pair of tighter pants?

To say I saw stars is an understatement. But I didn’t make that mistake again.

Still, I loved that little place. It was cozy and easy to take care of. It was a welcome respite from the rigors of college life and my friends enjoyed coming over after work and class to hang out. I was an older college student, having already had a couple of years of community college. So, I was the older and more worldly (yeah, right) friend with my own apartment.  

This was cool to those of my friends who lived in a dorm room.

I remember once that about six of my buddies from work got ahold of a bunch of free pizza coupons. We loaded up on some other food and drink and headed to the pizza joint. Each one of us posed as a solitary customer and each one of us got a free medium pizza.

That was back in the day when we were all thin and could eat whatever we wanted and remain skinny.  So, needless to say, we all sprawled out in my living room and each of us ate an entire pizza on our own.

I still remember all those guys crammed into my little apartment, listening to music and talking about the girls we worked with. It was fun and a good memory.

But I think my best memory is when we all decided to have a Christmas party at my tiny abode. For many of us, it was our first holiday season away from home.  Although most of us would of course return home before the big day, we still had to spend most of December away from home and it was weird.  

My kitchen was most likely built and outfitted in the 1950s. It had one of those old sinks with the drainer built in. The oven/stove was a tiny thing as well and had to be lit.  

Since my heat was powered by the lady who lived downstairs, any extra heat I desired was usually from my little oven. I’d light that sucker and open the oven door. It got pretty toasty in a little while.

A bunch of my friends had to work on the night of our party, and one of our gal friends who got off early said she’d head over and start cooking for us.  She took another friend with her. Before they left, I gave them instructions on how to light the oven. 

Did I mention she was making a cake and also some hot rolls?

I remember the smoky haze when we all arrived at my apartment. I walked up the stairs with about six other buddies and was met with a somewhat pleasant aroma. I mean, clearly something had burned, but there were also a few good smells.

On the table was a great looking cake. On the cabinet was a plate of hot rolls.  The fire alarm was opened up and the battery was missing. In the sink were two charred and nearly unrecognizable dish towels.

Our gal friend, known for colorful language, told us a comical story about lighting the stove, starting a pan of boiling water which she tried to pick up with a dish towel. The dish towel, which had some sort of fringe on it, began to burn. The other towel was used to swat at the fire, but it also caught on fire. 

The other friend, bless her, had the presence of mind to wet a third dish towel, dismantle the fire alarm, and put out the fire at the same time while the other friends screamed.

How the two of them managed to get the house smelling so good after that little incident is beyond me, but the menfolk were thankful. We closed the windows after the smoke had aired out, lit the oven again for warmth, and gathered around the floor to eat our feast. 

We exchanged a few presents, watched “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” on my little black and white television, and actually cleaned up our dishes and took out the trash.  

Now back in those days, I was a college kid. We didn’t even think about going out on the town to all the college night spots until around 10 p.m. Off we went, warm from the fun and fellowship.

Those friends made my first Christmas in the attic a fantastic memory. It’s just funny that I haven’t thought about that time for several years. Furthermore, I’ve lost touch with almost all of those friends. I keep in contact with a couple of them, but only with short messages on Facebook, text, or email.

As I sat here remembering that fun time, I could remember how it felt to be in the company of friends I had only known for a semester or two.  We were brought together by a common need to work part-time and attend college. We were all away from home, feeling strange to be on our own during the holiday season.   

I realized the other day what the smell of a little smoke and slightly burnt baked goods remind me of.

Funny how smells can take you back, isn’t it?

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