The Basement

| November 19, 2017

This time of year always reminds me of my basement growing up.

Having grown up in the Upper Midwest and being fortunate to live in other parts of the country, namely the East coast and South, there is something that we had in our childhood that many children in other parts of the country did not – snow days.

And basements.

The dark, dingy, musty, unfinished, furnace as a back stop for indoor baseball and as a goal for floor hockey games, not the finished spaces with plush carpeting, movie studios, leather reclining chairs, 160” projection screen “man cave” basements of today.

I am referring to the subterranean environments where we played Odyssey and Atari on a black and white television (on a folding “TV dinner” table) next to the furnace, built our pinewood derby cars, played “army men”, painted our model airplanes and later used our chemistry sets and electronics sets, sometimes incorporating the latter two to create fire or at least smoke.

The inescapable space that had a room with its own door and you wanted to go in but were sure you shouldn’t and for the most part didn’t. This room may have contained old files, photos, your parent’s yearbooks and storm windows or screens that were forgotten or unusable.

On top of this subterranean world our parents and grandparents and family would drink coffee, eat Entenmann’s coffee cakes and argue about taxes, Nixon taking us off the gold standard and why the Chicago Cubs were so bad.

Meanwhile, I would join friends and cousins under plain light bulbs and build forts, capture Nazis with our army men or shoot tennis balls at each other. On one occasion the tennis balls were on fire but this is not something that gets repeated.  Sometimes we would go into the “room” and use the storm windows or screens to build sturdier army forts.

As opposed to your bedroom, your parents would never go in the basement.

While our parents may have learned about love in the back of a Dodge, our generation had our lessons in the basement (once we outgrew model airplanes and playing war).

Basements are required in Northern homes because of frost lines and often the water table and soil tolerate digging several feet into the ground for the foundation. Many states have frost lines that are much shallower or clay bedrock or limestone or water lines that make basements unnecessary and/or cost prohibitive.

For those of us who grew up in homes with basements they were the perfect space around this time of year when the weather didn’t always cooperate and your family wanted you to stay inside.

One day the basement would be your “office” for stamp collecting, the next day your “workshop” for building models of your favorite aircraft carriers or airplanes or cars, perhaps even classic Dodge models. And while the adults talked about gasoline prices, peace in the Middle East or an actor from California becoming President of the United States, we had our own enclosed Soldier Field or Wrigley Field or sheet of Lake Placid ice to make sure our teams won.

These kid caves with their garage sale furniture and poor lighting and cold and damp cement floors and walls and makeshift bars have of course now been replaced with carpeting and cut outs on the stylish walls to hang sports memorabilia and custom bars and matching pool tables.

Despite this, I think we still had better basements 40 years ago.

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Category: Pathology News

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