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Archive for September, 2010

Our basement was an integral part of my childhood.  It was the place in our home that I could get away from everyone and experience solitude. It was my time in my childhood to figure out who I was as a person with some genuine thinking and reflection. It was also a place to have some fun with my friends. Our house an old farm house, was only about 1200 square feet and was built by a woman in the 1920s. The rooms were small and crowded – especially with 4 other siblings. I shared a room with all my sisters. We had a bunk bed with a trundle bed under it. The closet was only 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep – hardly enough room for all of our clothing and toys. Our house had one bathroom and it the size of a closet. The living room and kitchen were filled with the busy lives of 7 people. And while we had many fun times in our house with my family, (See: Twinkle of His Eye ), at times I needed to be alone. The basement was my refuge.

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My house on a hill

The piano that I learned to play was an upright piano, and it was located in our basement. I spent many hours playing the songs of the day. My favorites were songs by Hermit’s Hermits, Paul Simon, Jim Croce, Sebastian Bach, Rachmaninoff, and many Beatles songs. When I went downstairs to play the piano, I was alone and I could escape there for hours. The basement wasn’t heated, in fact it was ice-cold and my fingers weren’t very nimble. But I would warm them up on scales and arpeggios. And I wasn’t always totally alone. The mice and rats would sometimes be awaiting my performance. I went downstairs with the same mantra – which my Mom and Dad would mimic – “Get Mouse! Get Mouse.” The critters would scatter and then come back out after I started playing. It was a trade-off. I could find solitude in that basement, even if I had to share it with the basement creatures.

When my brother was in high school, we turned one of the rooms downstairs into a rec room. My Dad placed paneling on the walls and we painted the floor with a brick-red color. My Dad put a ping-pong table in that room, added an old sofa  and we now had a place to entertain our friends. I became quite good at ping-pong since this was the only place in my home to take my friends.

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My House on a hill - the Basement Side Exposed

My first kiss was in the basement after a ping-pong match. I won that match with Danny – and when changing ends of the ping-pong table, we met in the middle and kissed. The next time my boyfriend came over to play, I also won the match. But this time we met in the middle, and my boyfriend broke up with me. I had several slumber parties in high school in the basement. We turned the other rooms downstairs into a haunted house, complete with spider webs and hanging ghosts. It was inherently spooky in our basement with several dark rooms, so we didn’t need to do much to create the atmosphere.  I imagine that basement is still haunted with shrieks  of laughter and fright from teen-age girls.

The basement was not just mine. My Dad used the basement for his many foodie experiments (See: Schlumgolian ). The heavy crocks downstairs held the ingredients for the homemade sauerkraut made from our garden cabbage or ground home-grown horseradish. It was cool down there and the food from the garden stayed fresh for months.  We had  a freezer downstairs that held our side of beef that was purchased from the neighbor farmer – as well as my Dad’s stash of cash. My Dad set up a wine-making rig for making dandelion wine. After several months,  we tasted – and spit out – the new wine. It was awful!! We had a fruit cellar in the back room of the basement and had rows of canned vegetables in mason jars. We wrapped apples in newspaper and kept them in the fruit cellar for extra months of “fresh” apples. My sisters and I hated being asked to retrieve a canned good from the cellar. It was the darkest room in the basement with only one naked light bulb. We knocked down spider webs and avoided mouse traps to find the appropriate Mason jar there.

When I think of my childhood home and my memories there, I loved the boisterous kitchen and living room, the rooms where I mostly interacted with my family. But I also loved the basement. It’s where I could go to take care of my soul and find whispers of truth. It was the space where I felt least alone.

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime. Call us to scan your heirloom photos or to preserve your videos. 512-263-0546

  • VHS or reels to DVD
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Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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For a family that didn’t have much money (See My Dad – the Original Organic Farmer ), we sure did have fun on Saturday nights. Friday nights were taken up with football or basketball (See Football Boogie ). Saturday nights were reserved for playing cards or board games, sometimes with just our family, my aunt and uncle, or family friends. Before I was 9, I learned the game of Pinochle and the special set of rules that my family played by. I don’t think it was an option NOT to play – but I enjoyed the shenanigans so I never tested what would happen if I didn’t want to join the game.

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Getting Ready for the Card Game

On Saturday nights, my parents either played cards with my Aunt Mid and Uncle Jim or Don and Jean Shulaw. They took turns going to each other’s houses and my brother and sisters enjoyed it wherever the games took place. Now, to be exact, the kids were not invited to play when we got together with another family. Occasionally however, I would be asked to come to the table and “take a hand” so that the host could get the food ready to serve, or tend to one of the kid emergencies. It was there I learned most of my first cuss words and slightly off-color jokes. I observed not only the game of Pinochle, but how my parents acted a bit differently when around their friends. If my Dad wasn’t getting good cards that night, he would declare the cards were sticking together. He would get up and go get the baby powder to coat the cards to make them shuffle smoother. My Aunt would often get upset at the teasing at the card table and throw down the cards in a huff. I heard “Dammit Fred” so often I thought my Dad had two first names. Almost always – though it wasn’t a sure bet –  they were all laughing again by the end of the night.

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Mom & Dad's Favorite Card Partners

While our parents were otherwise occupied, we could play at will and with slightly less supervision. Mom didn’t seem to care if we messed the house up a little more. My sisters and I built tents with sheets and blankets with our cousins or played basketball outside in the dark. To this day, I am a very good shot at basketball and it’s because I played  “H-O-R-S-E” for hours with my cousin Brian on those card-playing nights. Sometimes it was so dark out that he’d throw me the ball and it would hit my face because I couldn’t see it. We also played outside barefoot, engaging in hide and seek and freeze-tag well into the night. My parents would stop their game long enough to make sure that we washed our very dirty feet before we came back into the house. They returned to their cards and we returned to our cousins. There was no set bedtime on those nights.

One of the best things about having company over to play cards was the food that came with the get-together. We were never allowed to have snacks or soda pop otherwise. But if cards were involved, we could have Pepsi or root beer, accompanied by potato chips and home-made onion dip. Mom would make her orange jello with pineapple dessert topped with cream cheese and marshmallows. I still sometimes savor the taste of Pepsi on ice in a tall Tupperware cup. As the bubbles explode when I drink it, I have flashbacks of the memories of those game nights.

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My boyfriend

When I was in high-school, it was easy for me to bring my boyfriend to my house (See One Sure Thing) and have him join in our family card game.  There was a structure already in place that he could slide into that eased him into being a part of our family. He endured my Dad’s teasing about how inept his card-playing was. That was Paul’s initiation into my family and he passed the test. My father was endeared to him when Paul declared the cards were sticking together and jumped up to get the powder to coat the cards. Finally, someone understood my father and his solution to unlucky cards.

We varied the games through the years. We added a marble game called Aggravation, we became experts at Euchre, or we played a game called Shanghai. This game was a form of rummy that required differing combinations of sets and runs.  The game itself wasn’t the important thing. What mattered was just getting around the table engaging each other in some sort of activity. We just really wanted to be together. They say you must accept the cards that life deals you. I was dealt a very blessed childhood.

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime. Call us to scan your heirloom photos or to preserve your videos. 512-263-0546

  • VHS or reels to DVD
  • Scan your photos or slides
  • Preserve your Memories.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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I recognize fun. In the transition between a person’s thought and the first inkling that something spontaneous is about to happen, I am on full alert to participate. I’m drawn to it like a magnet. And if anyone else has that predisposition for fun, I can tell it in the first minute of meeting them. It’s an exclusive club and instead of a secret handshake, we greet each other with a twinkle in our eye. It’s one of the gifts that I inherited from my Dad.

My Daddy was a play-on-the-floor kind of Dad (See: Sharing our Family’s Memories: Knock-Knock ). He was my pony ride, my chariot, or super sports car –  or whatever I chose for the day. They say if you put two gifted kids together, the result of their work or play is greater than the sum of the parts. My Dad and I could create worlds of fun that didn’t make sense to most people, but to us it did. I might ask for a pony ride, but by the end of our time of play, we traveled to Oz, fooled the trolls by the side of the road, and shot predators along our way. All we had to do was open ourselves up to whatever situation presented itself.

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My Dad and I

Music seemed to provide the platform for most of our antics. My Dad and I couldn’t stand it if Lawrence Welk was on TV, and we weren’t moving to the music. I learned to dance standing on his toes. He was the zoot-suit-wearing jitterbug king and I was his flying-through-the-air partner. On the morning of my wedding, he played the song “Going to the Chapel” and we line-danced to the lyrics. He walked me down the aisle that day in the traditional way, but we both knew that at any moment, it could end up being a very impromptu dance to the front of the church instead. We smiled at the mere image of it.

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My Dad playing guitar

My teen-age cousin visited from Indiana once and my Dad pulled out an electric guitar he was learning to play, grabbed my cousin’s long black Cher-like wig from her head, placed it on his head, and played his newest boogie. We were his back-up  and the best doo-op singers ever. What fun we had. I had two choices: I could shake my head at the ridiculous-ness of it all or join in. I did both, but joining in was the better choice.

My Dad died 28 years ago. He made an impact on me that transcends our short time together on this earth. He made sure that I would recognize this ability to have fun in other people. E.E. Cummings said, “Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” My Dad is my star. I live my life twinkle by twinkle.

Picture This! will help you create the gift of a lifetime. Call us to scan your heirloom photos or to preserve your videos. 512-263-0546

* VHS or reels to DVD
* Scan your photos or slides
* Preserve your Memories.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »