Our basement was like treasure chest. We were small, it was big and spacious with, what seemed like, many secret places. Cinder block walls and plywood doors, dark and dusty. A playground for our imaginations.
Every time we went down there we were certain we’d find a buried treasure or some mysterious artifact and in a way we did. In dark closet corners, in a cabinet or on a shelf we’d find a game or toy we didn’t know, or had forgotten, we had.
There was a time we had a dart board, which disappeared, but a ping-pong table appeared (my favorite!) That was replaced with a small pool table, which was gone after a short while. We weren’t sure how these things came to be in our basement. For us, they just did. Was is magic? Some arrangement our parents made to “hold” them? I don’t know, but by no means did our parents have the extra money to spare to buy these things. Still there was always something new … to us!
The basement was a large room the footprint of our three-bedroom ranch house. In the middle there were two large tables where our dad did his side job of tailoring. He spread out his materials and cut his patterns. In the front corner by the stairs was his antique black Singer sewing machine. On another wall his tools hung neatly on the wall above a work bench. The rest was ours!
It wasn’t fancy. Concrete floors, dark orange beams and no other real furniture. It was perfect for rainy days, when we’d roller-skate on the slick floor or roll out our piece of linoleum to practice our breakdancing (hey, it was the 80’s and breakdancing was in!)
Our friends and I used to act out plays we’d written, like the sequel to Alien before the second movie came out. Our poor parents! They were forced to sit through so many plays, magic shows and ad-lib performances. Lucky for them, we grew out of that.
Somehow our dad knew that the wall under the stairs concealed a hollow space. He and some neighbors broke down the concrete wall with hammers and other tools, and he was right. There was a room. My brother and I just knew we’d find a buried body or gold or something exciting, but it was just an empty cement room with jagged edges for a door.
It looked like a room in a dungeon and we loved it. Our dad ran electricity into it and hung one bare bulb on a chain. It was right next to a huge and heavy metal door, lined with deadbolts. On the outside cement stairs led to the backyard, but when it was closed and locked it added to the dungeon effect.
So what if we never found a body! That didn’t stop us from telling our friends fabulous ghost stories about the room under the stairs and hiding in there to scare them out of their minds.
The room had two purposes (three if you count scaring our friends). It held our dad’s materials for his tailoring and it held all of our sports equipment. And I don’t mean one or two items, I mean balls and rackets and bats and netting for practically every sport you can think of. There were also kites and frisbees and pogo sticks and so much more. Again, we had no idea how we ended up with all of this but our yard was the one all our friends hung out at so we could play.
I have such great memories of that basement! Halloween parties, new discoveries, school projects, privacy away from the parents (unless our dad was “working”), plays and rainy days and being creative. Even though we never did find “buried” treasure, the combination of me and my brother’s childhood imaginations turned that cold, dark basement into a treasure trove.