Thursday, April 26, 2012

Remembering Grandma & Grandpa's Basement

That's me, in a tree, high up in a tree, at Grandma & Grandpa's house  
  I was lucky as kid to know my great grand parents on my father's side, two great grandmothers on my mother's side, and one set of grandparents very well before they went to Heaven.
   We used to go to my Grandma and Grandpa Griggs' for Sunday dinners. Now that I'm a grown-up (whatever that is) and have a place of my own, I can see why going to Grandma and Grandpa's every Sunday might have been a drag to my Mom and Dad, but it was never a drag to me.
   I remember the basement quite clearly. 
   Want to go for a little ride? Let me show you Grandma and Grandpa's basement, and why I thought it was cool...
   Come on. I'll open the door. The light switch is right here. Yes, the stairs are carpeted. This house was built in the forties or fifties, and the basement is big, and warm, and finished. This pale paneling on the walls is the real deal: wood. We'll go downstairs....
   On the right is a door. Inside there's an old-fashioned broom on the paneling on the basement side of the staircase. It's not a witch's broom. It's made of straw, even the handle, tied together very tightly. We don't use it. It's decoration. That green folding thing is a room divider, or a changing screen. You can't see through it, so it's okay to change your clothes behind there. There's a bed there, with a yellow quilted bedspread on it. It gets dark down here at night, but sometimes Grandma and Grandpa let me sleep down here instead of upstairs. I'm not afraid of the dark. I like it. When Grandma gets up to make breakfast in the kitchen, I can hear her upstairs and I know it's okay to be awake. Breakfast will be good, too.
   The basement bedroom isn't cut off from the rest of the basement. We'll walk past the door for now, and into the main room in the basement. They have a bar here, but I've never seen anybody drink at it. I like the bar stools. If you sit on 'em, you can pretend you're at a bar, but you're looking at the bed in the next room. I like to sit on the stools and color in my coloring book.
   There's a closet door in the wall at the far end of the bar. It's not a scary closet. There are some clothes baskets in there, but no clothes in them. The baskets are full of toys. Old toys, some of 'em. Some of them used to belong to my Mom and my aunt. Sometimes there's new toys in there, for me and my brother and my cousins.
   As I got older, I stopped caring about the clothes baskets (which were wicker, not plastic) and the toys in them.
   Now we'll cut to when I was in high school...
   The furniture in the basement is nice. There are two couches, one against each long wall. The cocktail table, they call it a cocktail table rather than a coffee table, used to be the top of a piano. A small piano. It's shiny and black. Very cool. At the far end of the basement is a wing chair. There's a light right above the wing chair. It's a perfect place to spend the afternoon reading, while I wait for dinner to cook and wile my brother plays outside and my folks have drinks with Grandma and Grandpa.
   There's a fireplace at the end of the room, between built-in bookcases full of old books. An old console TV sits in front of the bookcase on the right. I don't turn it on. I'm fascinated with the books. One of the books is full of political cartoons from the Chicago Tribune, but they're not just any political cartoons. Those political cartoons were drawn during WWII. They're scary when you think about what was going on, and more expressive of the horror and fear of WWII than most history books I was reading for grades.
   One of the books was written by L. Frank Baum (author of Wizard of Oz) and it's a sequel to the Wizard of Oz. The tin man becomes an emperor. It's a little hokey. I read that book, and many others while I sat in that wing chair waiting for dinner.
   I like to sit in the chair. When I'm taking a break from reading, I listen to bits and pieces of conversation that dribble down from the living room above. Sometimes I hear Grandpa laugh. It's a booming laugh. Sometimes I hear all of them laugh. It's a happy sound and it makes me feel good. Safe. Loved.

    College rolled around, and I spend more time in the less finished half of the basement. There are pantry shelves behind pine doors on that side of the basement. There's also a good pool table. We play pool while we wait for dinner. Grandpa comes down and plays with my brother and I sometimes. We can't beat him at eight ball unless he sinks it by accident. We don't mind. It's his table.

   We're back now. It's 2012, and Grandpa and Grandma are somewhere else now. We'll see them again, I'm sure, and boy what a day that will be! I miss them, of course. I don't miss them in an achy, sad way. I miss them the way one misses someone he or she will see again, but isn't sure when.

   The house belongs to someone else now, and that's okay. The memories belong to me. I can go back to that basement in my mind anytime I want to. It's one of my many, many happy places.

No comments: