Hay’s Daze: Exploring the treasures of a secret room

A while back, I happened to notice an article in the newspaper that said, “The latest trend in home design,” and there was a picture of a door masquerading as a bookcase.

Turns out the article (which I read the first and last paragraph of, as I am wont to do when I’m feeling lazy) was about how many people are installing “secret doors” in their homes.

My immediate thought was: “Who hasn’t wanted a secret room in their house?” I know I have. And when I think about it, we actually did have one. Sort of.

When I was a kid, there was an attic in our old two-storey house in Parkvale, and it had a small door that was hidden. Sort of.

It wasn’t one of those trap-door type deals in the ceiling of the closet or a hallway that leads to a space under your roof that has a bunch of rafters and pink insulation and giant spiders.

No, this was an actual attic, like those you always see in movies, except without the creepy killer-with-a-weird-mask-hiding-with-a-humongous-knife vibe.

So up the top of our stairs, if you went to the right, there was the hallway to the bedrooms, but if you looked left, there was a kind of half door. And if you opened the door, there was the awesome attic, which was shaped like an Isosceles right angle triangle (remember Grade 7 geometry?) running back along the whole pitched roof of the house.

I can clearly remember the light bulb hanging there with a string on it. So I reach over and pull the string …

Oh, man, a whole room full of memories. There’s the old chest of drawers with Mom and Dad’s stuff in it, cardboard boxes, a big old trunk full of who knows what.

Hey, there’s my old ball glove that I haven’t used since I got my new Cooper trapper at Horsley’s Hardware downtown. And over there is my Zorro Halloween costume — the one with the plastic sword that held a piece of chalk in the tip, so you could swoosh Zeds on doors, walls, people, etc., like the real Zorro did.

And further down on a shelf — wow, I’d almost forgotten. Treasures from Christmases past. My Jon Gnagy Learn To Draw Set, which is full of half-finished barely recognizable scribbles of bowls of fruit and attempted portraits of my dog Bim.

And underneath, in a box about the size of a Monopoly game, my good old woodburning kit, complete with the Electric Wonder Pen. You would plug in the pen (which I realize now looks suspiciously like a soldering iron) and the tip would get hot and you would try to burn the lines of pre-drawn etchings on the enclosed four-by-six-inch sheets of thin balsa wood.

Hours of fun inhaling wood smoke. My completed “art” should have been burned, all right — like, in a bonfire.

Over here, my sister Hedy’s roller skates. I’d “borrow” them, strap them on my running shoes and rattle off down the sidewalk, vibrating violently all the way. See, they were made of metal with stone wheels, and your feet and legs would be all tingly and wibbly and wobbly for three straight hours after taking the skates off.

That’s the thing about secret rooms, I’m thinking as I pull the string on the light bulb and shut the door on the hidden attic of my imagination. All the memories are still in there just waiting to be rediscovered.

Come to think about it, I gotta go back in. I haven’t seen my old football helmet in years.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.

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