What We Found in the Basement

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I attended 9 different schools between Kindergarten and my senior year of High School. I have lived in more than 7 different houses in 3 different states before leaving for college. Most of them were old houses. St. Paul, Minnesota is made of 1920s and 30s era houses full of history and interesting nooks and crannies.
In one house we lived in I found two old skeleton keys. I pinned them on my jeans jacket. (That was very cool in the 80s.) One house had a furnace where trash used to be burned. When I lived there it was illegal to burn trash. We regularly discovered birds trapped in the chimney pipe of the stove. Several houses had basements reminiscent of “The Silence of the Lambs”, creepy dark holes full of centipedes and mold where  Christmas ornaments and laundry facilities could be kept. In one house my sister and I set up our Barbie houses in the basement. We had to fling mouse poop out of the dollhouses each time we wanted to play. (I could never figure out how the mice could get onto the third floor of Barbie’s Townhouse!!) I have roller-skated around countless basements with my sister tethered to a jump rope taking turns pulling each other around. These old houses are cool, in my opinion.
In one house we discovered a door hidden in the basement paneling. I have no idea how many years that room had been closed off. What we found in there was equally horrifying and fascinating. We pried the door open and discovered a small room literally half filled with old newspapers and Life Magazines. There was an old mattress on the top of the trash heap. I didn’t want to think about why that was there. My Dad was afraid that there would be porno in the piles of papers, so he just started shoveling it into garbage bags. I managed to salvage a big stack of Life Magazines from pre-WWII up to the Kennedy Space Launch. Some have pictures of Hitler or his cronies on the cover, one has the entire interview with the astronauts who landed on the moon.
My family has moved around a lot, and as missionaries we still move around a lot. Because of this, I don’t feel like we have a lot of roots or memories in one place. I have very few keepsakes or treasures to tie me to the past. But in those magazines, I have an authentic piece of history that I can put my hands on any time I am feeling that floaty, rootless feeling. They aren’t MY memories, but they are a part of history and they are connected to ONE of the places that I have lived, so for that reason, I hang on to these odds and ends from the past.

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