Imagination & Memory: What’s Hidden & What’s Not

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When I was a girl and we went from Manhattan to visit my Massachusetts grandmother, either by train or car, the place I couldn’t wait to get to was Gram’s utility closet. From the outside, from the closed door, it appeared nondescript. But tucked behind the mop, the broom, and buckets, a row of hanging winter coats and old clothes, there was a hidden staircase. That the staircase led up to a second story storage area wasn’t what intrigued me; the stairway itself did. I’d go in, turn on the dim light, close the door quietly behind me, climb over the cleaning supplies, push the coats apart, walk up a few steps with a doll in hand or a pad of paper and a box of crayons, and sit down. Many happy solitary hours were spent there—no one interrupted me. There was no boisterous family; no bickering; no nothing, just me by my very own self. If gone too long and my mother couldn’t find me elsewhere, she knew where to look. Growing up in that West Springfield house, my mother had also sought privacy on those same steps. My grandmother is gone; my mother’s gone; but the hidden room is very much here. My imagination’s got it. When lost to myself, I look there.