The Basement

by Kim on September 30, 2010

Our basement was an integral part of my childhood.  It was the place in our home that I could get away from everyone and experience solitude. It was my time in my childhood to figure out who I was as a person with some genuine thinking and reflection. It was also a place to have some fun with my friends. Our house an old farm house, was only about 1200 square feet and was built by a woman in the 1920s. The rooms were small and crowded – especially with 4 other siblings. I shared a room with all my sisters. We had a bunk bed with a trundle bed under it. The closet was only 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep – hardly enough room for all of our clothing and toys. Our house had one bathroom and it the size of a closet. The living room and kitchen were filled with the busy lives of 7 people. And while we had many fun times in our house with my family, (See: Twinkle of His Eye ), at times I needed to be alone. The basement was my refuge.

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My house on a hill

The piano that I learned to play was an upright piano, and it was located in our basement. I spent many hours playing the songs of the day. My favorites were songs by Hermit’s Hermits, Paul Simon, Jim Croce, Sebastian Bach, Rachmaninoff, and many Beatles songs. When I went downstairs to play the piano, I was alone and I could escape there for hours. The basement wasn’t heated, in fact it was ice-cold and my fingers weren’t very nimble. But I would warm them up on scales and arpeggios. And I wasn’t always totally alone. The mice and rats would sometimes be awaiting my performance. I went downstairs with the same mantra – which my Mom and Dad would mimic – “Get Mouse! Get Mouse.” The critters would scatter and then come back out after I started playing. It was a trade-off. I could find solitude in that basement, even if I had to share it with the basement creatures.

When my brother was in high school, we turned one of the rooms downstairs into a rec room. My Dad placed paneling on the walls and we painted the floor with a brick-red color. My Dad put a ping-pong table in that room, added an old sofa  and we now had a place to entertain our friends. I became quite good at ping-pong since this was the only place in my home to take my friends.

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My House on a hill - the Basement Side Exposed

My first kiss was in the basement after a ping-pong match. I won that match with Danny – and when changing ends of the ping-pong table, we met in the middle and kissed. The next time my boyfriend came over to play, I also won the match. But this time we met in the middle, and my boyfriend broke up with me. I had several slumber parties in high school in the basement. We turned the other rooms downstairs into a haunted house, complete with spider webs and hanging ghosts. It was inherently spooky in our basement with several dark rooms, so we didn’t need to do much to create the atmosphere.  I imagine that basement is still haunted with shrieks  of laughter and fright from teen-age girls.

The basement was not just mine. My Dad used the basement for his many foodie experiments (See: Schlumgolian ). The heavy crocks downstairs held the ingredients for the homemade sauerkraut made from our garden cabbage or ground home-grown horseradish. It was cool down there and the food from the garden stayed fresh for months.  We had  a freezer downstairs that held our side of beef that was purchased from the neighbor farmer – as well as my Dad’s stash of cash. My Dad set up a wine-making rig for making dandelion wine. After several months,  we tasted – and spit out – the new wine. It was awful!! We had a fruit cellar in the back room of the basement and had rows of canned vegetables in mason jars. We wrapped apples in newspaper and kept them in the fruit cellar for extra months of “fresh” apples. My sisters and I hated being asked to retrieve a canned good from the cellar. It was the darkest room in the basement with only one naked light bulb. We knocked down spider webs and avoided mouse traps to find the appropriate Mason jar there.

When I think of my childhood home and my memories there, I loved the boisterous kitchen and living room, the rooms where I mostly interacted with my family. But I also loved the basement. It’s where I could go to take care of my soul and find whispers of truth. It was the space where I felt least alone.

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