Vivian’s attic represents the unresolved matter of her past. Throughout Vivian/Niamh’s long life, she has loved and lost many important people. She has experienced many traumatic and difficult events that she has never processed emotionally and has kept secret to herself for many years. Because she hasn’t processed and reconciled her feelings about the people and events in her life, she has carried her past with her into the present. As she has moved through life, she has likewise accumulated countless boxes full of objects that tell the story of her life. As Vivian/Niamh cleans out her attic with the help of Molly Ayer, the two women discuss the symbolic importance and the story of each item. The process of cleaning out the attic represents Vivian/Niamh’s process of acknowledging and making peace with her past.
The Attic / Boxes in the Attic Quotes in Orphan Train
To her surprise, Molly feels a lump in her throat. She swallows, pushing it down. How ridiculous – an old lady gives her a moldy book she has no use for, and she chokes up. She must be getting her period.
Why shouldn’t Vivian’s attic be filled with things that are meaningful to her? The stark truth is that she will die sooner than later […] So yes – Molly has begun to view her work at Vivian’s in a different light. Maybe it doesn’t matter how much gets done. Maybe the value is in the process – in touching each item, in naming and identifying, in acknowledging the significance of a cardigan, a pair of children’s boots.
But over and over, Molly begins to understand as she listens to the tapes, Vivian has come back to the idea that the people who matter in our lives stay with us, haunting our most ordinary moments. They are with us in the grocery store as we turn a corner, chat with a friend. They rise up through the pavement; we absorb them through our soles.