Of Basements and Old Stuff

Do you wonder what lurks in the crevices of your garage?  or attic?  or basement?  California doesn’t do basements too much but I had the good fortune of having grandparents that had a basement.  It was dank, dark, foreboding.  And I loved it in a dangerous kind of way.  The steps were steep and one lone lightbulb illuminated the entire terrain.  The wood that held the house up above the basement was pristine redwood. Once I managed to lodge a giant redwood splinter across the palm of my hand.   It required a trip to the doctor to get it removed.

Once down in the abyss of the concrete reinforced (I hope) basement, were located shelves.  And on the shelves were many unopened boxes.  White boxes.  And they had ribbon around them.  Silver ribbons.  Along with those boxes were a myriad of plates, cups, glasses, piles of clothes.  Thinking of it now, it is not too far removed from what the Rayman and I just found in our garage as we embarked on our “spring clean”.  However, the basement had much more character.  It also had a vent to the outside which was useful for light and air.  Uncle Dodo, the architect of my grandparents house was no slouch.  He thought of everything, apparently.   Although, it could have used more light.  It was slightly terrifying to me.  There were shadows and spiders.  And the adults never seemed interested in going down there.  My grandmother used to line up cans of food on the steps.  It was a stand in for the pantry she didn’t have.  The house was very small.

But I digress.

Our neighbor, the Jordan family had a basement too.  As far as I know, these were the only two basements on our block but then I never did a census, and I didn’t snoop.  Surmising is the best I can do.  Johnny Jordan was an entrepreneur in the entertainment business.  He entertained people in his bars and liquor stores.  And because of this perhaps, he made the basement of his house into an elaborate bar.  It had red tiles on the floor and a small bar, complete with sink, mirrors, glasses, booze.  And it had a closet.  That is where we changed our clothes when we were putting on a “floor show” for the adults.  The water heater may have been in it.  Not sure.  Memories have faded over time.  But that basement was high class.  It was a hidden gem.  Perhaps it was a speakeasy!!  I think it is fair to say that their basement had far less spiders than ours did.  Oh, and how can I forget.  It had a jukebox.  A Wurlitzer with bright lights.  With records.  OMG.  It was so cool.   And it also had a vent to the outside for air and light.

So, today Rayman and I started cleaning the garage and it brought all these memories back when I stopped to take a water break and sit down to cool down.

Our garage is not nearly as interesting.  And it’s full of stuff that I wonder what ever possessed us to buy.  Oh, I’m sure we had our reasons but really.  We must have unearthed 10 tubes of silicon stuff.  Putty.  30 cans of opened paint, mostly mysterious as to the application they were intended for.  Many from the previous owner so they must match our walls.  Forty two cloth bags for lugging stuff home.  Wine bags.  You know the kind that have 6 compartments.  Bags from Whole Foods, New Frontiers, Albertsons, Morro Bay Golf Course.  Bags up the ying yang.  Old tire chains that do not fit on presently owned automobiles.  Hats which we plan to keep but hats galore.  Baseball caps, my floppy golf hats.  And pictures.  OMG.  Family pictures.  And many of them framed.  So, I took the pictures out of the frames and the frames now rest in the back of the Prius.  Off to the Goodwill truck with the frames, old tools, clothes that don’t fit anymore.  A major clean up.

But back to  those boxes in the basement.  When I got old enough to reach the shelves, I opened one of the boxes.  It, like all the others, had a white small card attached.  “Dear Donna and David.  Congratulations on your marriage.  Love, Whomever”.  The boxes were unopened wedding presents filled with Fostoria glasses and plates.  Cups and saucers.  Never opened.  The vestige of a broken marriage.   How sad, really.  My parents were only married for a few years, not long enough, apparently, to open the wedding gifts.  Not long enough to set up house.

Well, some of those dishes are in my kitchen today.  I use them for desserts and salads.  Quite useful to the homemaker.  Take that to mean what you wish.  I will spoil your fun by telling you that my mother was completely uninterested in making a home.  Her favorite meal to make was fish sticks, at the dawn of the frozen dinner era.  She was also quite fond of cream tuna on toast.   So, I guess she didn’t need salad and dessert plates for that, now did she?

Well, I had my rest.  The garage beckons.  And I found an old box of my grandmother’s recipes (she was a good cook and homemaker).  So, perhaps, I will share a few of them with you later on.  But first, I must plow through that box and see what i can find.

Hope there aren’t any spiders in there.

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Mary Kay Bornfleth (3 years ago)

Wow! What a fun romp through Paso history. Would love to visit those basements. My grandparents had cellars which were accessed from outside through a “door/board” which you had to lift up. I was always afraid it would fall locking me in forever! It brought new meaning to dank and dark and was inhabited by who knows what/whom! Thanks for sharing!

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