Friday, October 25, 2013

Recollections from the basement

Skinny skeleton keys taken away by the sellers, needed for sentimental reasons?
Comics stored away, forgotten, then re found. 
Doorknobs and old hardware tossed by my mother to make room,
scavenged by a passerby in the alley. Metal and fabric blinds tossed.
She thought them useless and old.
Steep stairs going down, the last one a doozy.

One time in the dark, I fell into a half a pig that still needed to be cut up.
The pull light was on the far side of that pig. My mother bought and transported half a cow, later cut into unrecognizable sections not matching those on any chart, often boiled.  My favorite part was the soft gelatinous oxtail cooked in a barley soup.  An uncle broke the marble counter cutting up the cow. A tall freezer packed full with white papered bundles.  The abundance made me feel safe as far as knowing where our next meaty dinner was coming from.

My little brothers set a phone book on fire, thankfully on the concrete floors, the blaze not reaching the wooden walls.  My screams and a bucket of water doused their enthusiasm.

The laundry room painted in a deep, chalky turquoise.  Matchbox hanging on the wall, with a decal of a little housewife merrily sweeping. A white Styrofoam floaty with a red horse's head, worn on a day I saw a giant silver fish jump high over the water on Lake Michigan. A sled for going down the hill at Humboldt Park. Charming old decals on the windows, a Dutch girl, a wooden potty chair, dresser, jars on the shelves. 

Wringer washer for a time in our kitchen, floral cozy sewn to measure, then in the basement.  Filled with hot soapy water, whites washed first, wrung out through the rollers, placed in first of 2 rinse waters in 2 compartment cement sink, rinsed and wrung out by hand  twice, hung up to dry on clotheslines outside if the weather was fair, or on the clotheslines in the "big" room in the basement near the water heaters.  Sometimes, outside, then inside, then outside again as the weather changed.  Drove me batty. Subsequent loads of colors, socks, then the dirtiest work clothes, water darkened and blackened with each load.  Washer chugged.  My brothers threw out the old washer in the 1980s and bought my mother a new one.  She regretted losing the wringer washer and the ability to reuse the same water for multiple loads.

A couple years ago, a man whose family owned the building before my parents, returned to visit.  He asked for a purple brick with lettering from the patio for remembrance.  His older, very frail friend took pictures with his Leica.  I was worried for him on the uneven steps in leading to the alley. 

Another, earlier time, my mother spoke to a stranger by the viaduct north of her house.  Turn out that his family lived there.  He sent her a picture of the house as it was during the Depression years.  A long-haired boy in a white shirt riding a tricycle was our visitor.  Showed the same stained glass window on the second floor.  Storefront with big windows, display of apple bins.  Proprietress in an apron, sitting in front.  a child skipping rope.  Very few, very bulky cars parked in front.  Most jobs were walking distance in factories.



Jessica@CapeofDreams said...

Beautiful memories. Makes me think of basements in my life and what is still hidden in them.

tess said...

Winter storage, time capsule, repository for memories, mushroom habitat all. Thanks for visiting.