Basement Days

I grew up in a split level home of the 1970's. My siblings and I used to spend a lot of time in the basement pretending it was our own little house apart from the main thing just a few stairs above. Here's a list of the the contents which made up our dusty, pre-adolsecent world:

A big blue-flowered couch to jump on. Shaggy green carpet that looked like grass after a nuclear explosion. Our cat thought it was grass as well. A big radio-tv-record player cabinet combo that belonged to Dad. It didn't work anymore, but he was going to fix it someday to play all his Elvis records on.

Books. Washer—sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. We spent a lot of evenings at the laundromat so it must not have worked that often. Did anything work in our house? Water heater and furnace. Magazines. Boxes of old negatives showing Dad's army days. We'd hold them up to the light and laugh at how everything was the opposite of how it should be; faces, clouds, guns . . .

Hat boxes from Mom's time in New York as an airline ticket agent. She had cocktail gowns, pumps, even a fur stole. Now she wore a bright yellow t-shirt with the words, "I'm Poor and Live in Johnson County" with no bra on underneath. Some sense of humor that woman had. Johnson County is one of the most affluent areas in Kansas City. She was making a statement, unfortunately people at the baseball park didn't get it, or the grocery store, or . . . anywhere. I got it. It still makes me laugh.

Bible. This was the big focus of the room. The sun of our surroundings, and source of great fear. If we got dust on the bible, Dad spanked us. If we got fingerprints on the bible, Dad spanked us. We got spanked every day. Too bad Mom didn't have a t-shirt for that.

And lastly, my favorite item: Grandmother Marion's old manual typewriter. It was black iron, with the circular key pads jutting out in long arms. You'd push one down and watch its corresponding unit hammer forward then spring back with a release of the finger. Of course, there was no longer a ribbon inside, so we had to use our imagination, typing away whole books against the black roll.

I can't recall any other items. Only the vision of us at play; dust blizzards falling around through the light coming out of high windows.


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