Tuesday, June 7, 2011

From the Mental Archives

I remember a pencil sharpener in the laundry room of our basement. I loved that pencil sharpener. I remember thinking that it was so cool to have a real, wall-mounted, grade-school-issue pencil sharpener. You could adjust the sharpener for different widths of pencils and it had a barrel to collect the shavings—which I dutifully emptied. I don’t think I ever told anyone how cool I thought that was (oh, the mockery.)

As a child I lived with my mother, grandmother, and grandfather. The basement of my grandparents’ house had green and black swirled tile on the floors. The basement was always cool and often slightly damp. When it rained water would stream in near the steps. There was a pool table and a piano and a dehumidifier and sometimes a full bedroom and living room set up, other times just boxes and discarded furniture and knickknacks—French-looking little boy blue porcelain statues, a cornucopia from Thanksgiving, a metronome.

My grandfather’s army fatigues and camping gear had a nook underneath the stairwell and across from a gross, moldy, creepy shower stall that was always closed off by a thick plastic shower curtain printed with cherry blossoms in 60s psychedelic colors—did anyone ever use that disgusting thing?

Some days the basement was creepy; at other times cool—an escape. It varied from day to day and certainly from year to year as I grew older. As children, we, my cousins and I, used to play in the basement often. Sometimes a pool game, or hide & seek.

I remember the squeak of the basement door and the sound of Grandma’s flip flops on the linoleum steps. I remember trying to learn (teach myself?) how to play the piano. We would always bang around on it. I liked the sounds. I loved to sing. I remember listening to Madonna’s True Blue tape for the first time in the basement on my Grandma’s little boombox.

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