In my grandparents’ backyard in Syracuse, NY stood the small red playhouse my grandfather had built for my mother and her sister when they were children. Tin cups and plates were strewn in a box in the “kitchen” where my siblings and I spent hours pretending to cook or eat or chat like our parents. But as much fun as we had in the kitchen, the coveted spot in the playhouse was its attic, the upstairs that you could only get in by climbing a ladder from the ground floor. There was just one rule: you couldn’t go up until you were five years old. Being the youngest of four children, I waited with anticipation for my fifth birthday so I could finally look out the attic window, roughly level with my grandfather’s head.
The first time we visited my grandparents after I turned five, I don’t even know if I went into the big house first, or if I just ran into the backyard, through the little white door, up the ladder and onto the rough wooden floor of the attic. There was barely room to sit. The low ceiling had nails still sticking through, and the small window let in just enough light for me to see how dusty it was. And yet, all I really remember was the feeling of exhilaration of finally being Up There.