Monday, March 8, 2010

There's Nothing Fun About a Search Party

Like most of us, I didn't enjoy going into the basement alone as a kid. Basements are dark and quiet, two things that repel children. There weren't specific fears associated with my childhood basement (other than my brother Dave who would sometimes jump out from a dark corner wearing a gorilla mask). It was more so the feeling that anything was possible there--hungry spiders, monsters, and ghosts.

Friday afternoon I ventured into the basement against my will to find a couple of things. The basement is still an uncomfortable place for me, but for completely grownup reasons. My basement is a museum of everything that is wrong with me. It is filled with boxes of things I never organized, things I should have thrown away, and enough Happy Meal toys to make a person truly, mournfully sad. The boxes were packed by our movers, a crew of college-age kids doing summer work, and contain such random collections of items that searching through them feels like a bout of schizophrenia: computer cords with a box of checks with a stuffed animal and an old dress shoe. I like to pretend that it's all the movers' fault, but truthfully, they can only account for 42.6% of the blame.

Every box is a time machine, taking me somewhere else in the past, and robbing me of time in the present. Sometimes it's a pleasant trip, like when I found the letter Ryan read to me at my college graduation party, or the tattered children's book I thought was lost forever. But other times it's a total drag. A teenaged picture of me sat in my hands, staring back at me. She was smiling, but not very happy. Part of me wanted to rip the picture in two and let us both escape it.

After two hours, I hadn't found either of the things I was looking for. I had an urge to throw myself on the basement floor and pound my fists, but I didn't. Instead, I stuffed a garbage bag full of discarded items, put the boxes back in their stack, and carried a small armful of random finds to a new life upstairs. The one-person search party was temporarily called off.

It occurred to me later that my childhood fears about the basement were actually well-founded, if not misunderstood. The spiders are there, but they are small in number and easy to squash; the monsters are the ones I created myself out of Happy Meal toys, computer cords and old dress shoes. And the ghosts? Well, they're all quite familiar.

10 comments:

Soul-Fusion said...

love it. And while I don't have a basement, I do have closets and a storage space full of ghosts screaming to be sorted. Spring cleaning is apparently upon us now.

Miranda said...

"my basement is a museum of everything that is wrong with me." I feel exactly the same way about my basement. I've been trying to figure out how to explain the way my basement makes me feel like a failure as a person. You nailed it. :)

Angie said...

Adult Tiffany has turned out so, so well, maybe teenage Tiffany doesn't need to be mourned anymore? She's ok. She's better than ok.

Lindy-Lou said...

Boy, do I relate. And it wasn't even college kids that packed the boxes that are still waiting to be sorted through. I think it was mostly us in a hurry. So many decisions about what to save and what to discard.

You didn't happen to find a picture of you skiing with the rope in your toe, did you?

Christy said...

I loved this post! "My basement is a museum of everything that is wrong with me." What an awesome line! So many people can relate to that.

If only I had gotten rid of it all the 1st time I moved or even the 2nd. I don't know whats wrong with me.

Kami said...

I feel the exact same way about mine. I think if we finished it, that would motivate me to make it more organized.

Mac and Dixie said...

I too am scared of my basement. I dread the day we decide to finish it. Where in the world will we put all that stuff? Probably the dumpster...

MiaKatia said...

I communed with the spiders this Sunday. We don't have basements here, but we have plenty of room in the garage. I was looking for this gigantic notebook of family history my mom put together before she dies. Of course I dug through tons of bins before I found it. Some of the bins had so many memories stuffed inside that I barely opened the lid and stuffed it back down. I figured if I had buried my notebook under that stuff, I didn't want it that badly.

amy said...

Oh, this post made me both smile and cringe. We recently finished our basement but have storage closets full of boxes and tubs of my former self. Prom dresses, love letters and all. On our "to do" list to tackle this spring.

tiburon said...

Excellent post.

You make me laugh at the thoughts going through your head most of the time...

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