Life Matters

The History Museum in the basement

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Last weekend I forayed into the basement, which had not been cleaned in years. We have three rooms in the basement, two of which were bedrooms for Francis and Steven and still contained their beds, dressers and personal items from their childhoods. Trophies and team pictures littered their rooms, along with awards from high school, prom mugs, graduation gowns, yearbooks and discarded diplomas. Being in high school was an exciting time with lots of personal paraphernalia as remembrance, but how much attention does it get once someone has reached the pinnacle of adulthood? I found myself dusting them and packing them away in the dressers, remaking the stale beds and opening the curtains to let sun in.

It was in the “storage” room where the memories of my own life came flashing back. A smaller sized, wooden crib was folded up against the wall. That crib had held the sweet little bodies of fourteen foster babies. I especially loved the size of it because it fit into snug corners, which served us well when we had three or more foster children in addition to our own Dinora and Francis. A technology savvy brother-in-law had provided me with a mat for under the mattress. It counted each infants breath and would go off if the breathing ever slowed, or, God forbid, stopped. The alarm never did go off, but I slept the better for it. Near the crib were the accoutrements of baby rearing; booster seats, strollers, and a lidded carton of entertaining but educational toys. I had saved them for my own grandchildren, but the “pack and play” replaced the need for my small crib and strollers became more streamlined and easier to push. Carefully, I cleaned off each of the items and set them aside to donate to the Salvation Army.

The next section contained outdated technology; clunky, mammoth sized computer screens, along with several old televisions with DVD players and a huge box of DVDs. Without the benefit of cable at our tiny house in New Hampshire, the box of DVDs would serve well to provide new and exciting entertainment during weekend visits. Who wouldn’t want to watch “Hogan’s Heroes” and “Get Smart?”

My own high school remnants were next in the room. I relaxed and sat for an hour, glass of wine in hand, to reminisce about the many friends who had written in my yearbook. Many were now hugely successful Rhode Island icons, and I was proud to have gone to high school with them. However, sadly, many were now deceased or, even worse, old! The young, handsome blonde guy on whom I had a crush works at the bank, had gray hair, a pot belly and a picture of his grandchildren on his desk. I am not that old, am I? (I do have a picture of my grandchildren on my desk.)

For whatever reason, I had kept the homemade prom gowns my mother had sewn. In their best days they were less than fashionable, and were a remembrance of my frugal childhood. They also reminded me of the joyous, dancing fun to be had at twelve different proms. Because I was friendly and enjoyed the company of all, I often went to proms with male friends who did not have a date, and have fond memories of these events.

Beyond my own stash of stuff, I came upon my parents’. It’s only reasonable that their memories would also be in the basement as they had owned the house for twenty years before Hubby and I purchased it. Gently wrapped in a box was a delicate English tea set. When my mother and I had accompanied Francis to Cambridge University in England, we had delighted in the daily tea served in the quaint English Inn where we stayed. I had secretly purchased a tea set, (for an astronomical price.) I lied and told my mom that it cost $25 because if she knew how much it really cost she would have choked on her tea. Having tea and using this special pot and the tiny little cups was a custom she and I enjoyed for years to come, and one of my happiest memories with her.

Further in the basement were my parents’ memories. They had not accumulated much “stuff” because they rarely purchased anything, with the exception of a cherished a set of African American baby dolls my dad had gave my mom. They had politically incorrect names and were dressed in politically incorrect clothes, but to my mom they were a precious reminder of his love for her. Also in their closet was my father’s World War II helmet with the names of each of the countries he visited painted on the side. This had been wrapped and hidden away, as though by hiding it, the terrors that he experienced, and which forever changed him emotionally, were non-existent.

I left their memories in the closet, but took the tea service upstairs. Marie and I often visited the Islander for Chinese food, and she delighted in sharing a pot of tea with me. She would be thrilled to have our own tea set where we could make new memories.

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