If I had to pick one part of our house that best represents the real soul of our family, I would pass over our beloved kitchen, its marked table a sign of projects and birthday parties past. I would even skip over our living room, with all the pictures of our loved ones and the perfect setup for a combination tapas-and-movie night.
What about the porch? A twinkly-lit site for magical summer dinners? No! It won’t do.
For a true testament to our family, our hidden heart, look no further than the stairwell to the basement. Our basement door is hard to miss. A few months ago we painted it black with chalkboard paint and it now features our weekly dinner menu in my mother’s loopy script. “Tuesday: Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos,” still resides, a bold proclamation from a menu that is now over a month old.
This door is actually not the only thing in our house that my mother attacked with chalkboard paint. At the foot of the basement stairs, there is a fridge that looks like it might belong in a haunted house. Formerly white and hastily spray-painted black, this poor fridge looks like we salvaged it from a house fire. Perhaps to offset its sheer creepiness, my mother chalked, “Eating and Drinking Makes Me Merry,” across its front. I cannot say with conviction this message helped our poor fridge’s case.
The stairwell is sandwiched between the chalked door and fridge. Opening the outdated-menu door, I am immediately presented on my right with a choice of light switches. I must choose wisely, as one will turn on a dimly lit bulb that barely provides the outline of the bottom-most stair, and the other was a floodlight for the outdoors in its former life, forever memorialized here and often confused for its basement counterpart.
I must tread carefully, as the stairs are littered with plastic and paper bags alike, dropped like confetti from our bag storage area on my left. Reusable cotton bags bulge off makeshift hooks on the wall, filled to the brim with plastic grocery bags that have likely seen a few election cycles. We have even taken to shoving plastic bags in a hole in the wall- an oddly shaped hole whose origins to this day are unknown. My siblings and I take pride in seeing how far we can shove a bag up into the wall. Such fun to be had in this starwell!
Moving past the evidence of what is sure to be considered low-level hoarding, I am immediately struck by a bright blue poster of a rabbit jumping out of a magician’s hat. Yes, the sloped ceiling of our basement stairwell is where we have decided to keep a poster my then-fifteen-year-old brother designed for my mother’s work conference… in 2013. We are available for interior design consultations, but please form an orderly queue.
I think it has become fairly obvious why I consider this stairwell to be possibly the only legitimate peek into our family’s psyche. Nowhere else in this house can I find the same haphazard and sometimes dangerous arrangement of odds and ends. Nowhere else can I see a trend of obvious, if maybe a little misguided, efforts. Nowhere else do I giggle immediately upon thinking about what visitors must think, should they find themselves checking out our basement stairwell. The pièce de résistance of our family.