“Why don’t you check in the basement?”
This question, usually posed by one of my parents, has the potential to fill me with dread. I am usually in desperate search of an item whose evasiveness matches that of a fugitive, and to find it I am forced to contend with the force of nature that is our basement. With a thick coat of green paint, our basement would not look far off from a community theatre’s Forbidden Forest. The floor space is thickly covered with human-sized piles of furniture, games, boxes, and old books. If I look hard enough, I might even find a lost birth certificate or two.
I could get lost or seriously injured with very little effort in the twists and turns of all these treasures. At its core, this basement is a cemetery for abandoned hobbies, jobs, and homes. A peek into lives lost and forgotten. A search that might take a few minutes can easily take longer if I get distracted by a simple stroll down memory lane. A peek of broken strings brings me back to my short-lived stint as a guitarist in second grade. An American Girl Doll missing not only a leg but also an eye, awards fresh horror and the inexplicable joy of playing Pretend in the Depression era.
The pieces of furniture that have been designated (somewhere, by someone) for “future use” are propped up on styrofoam squares. Why? One must only look to the walls and, on lucky days, the floors to see obvious signs of water damage. Woe be the search that leads me to the basement on the day after a big rain. Even on a dry day, I am likely to find an errant puddle that our designated water vacuum-er missed.
Perhaps my quest takes me a different route: to the land of laundry. A long folding table holds piles upon piles of laundry, some of which have been there for months. The ceiling pipes in our “laundry area” have been repurposed as drying racks, so I often navigate this land by pushing my way through a sea of damp shirts, a sensation I wish upon no one.
In the figurative “north” but literal “west” of the basement there is an ice chest older than myself or any of my siblings. Its icy depths contain mysteries I can only imagine. I am extremely wary if my search leads me anywhere near this freezer, as I can only stand to frantically rifle through its frosty treasures for a minute or two before numbness sets in.
There are truly any number of ways to get lost, wet, distracted, or hurt in our basement. My searches are never guaranteed success. In fact, they rarely guarantee even remote pleasure. I am astounded when I go over to a friend’s house and find a finished basement, nary a puddle, or furniture forest, or sea of drying clothes to be found. Now, where is the fun in that?