Monday, July 21, 2008


I joke that I bought the house I've lived in for twelve years to avoid moving. That is not not far from the truth.

My basement is perpetually damp. Turning on the garden hose starts a stream of water down the wall. The rain this summer created a pond on the floor.

I didn't help matters by having never-unpacked boxes on the floor and heaps of other junk that accumulated over the years. I only have one closet in the house so I'm constantly rotating clothes by season and weight fluctuation.

There were stacks of holiday things, yard sale stuff, boxes of books, piles of papers and the random bags of God-knows-what-possessed me to save that heaped in every corner.

I'd avoided the whole mess for years, only darting down there to do laundry or grab something. But more often to toss something in to the fray. I couldn't leave clean clothes down there too long or they'd start smelling like a wet diaper.

And avoiding it made it even worse. Soon there was just a path to get to front to back. And that path was often risky. When Hostel John, my dear friend/neighbor/can fix anything re-tiled my bathroom he had to see my basement. Couldn't be avoided when the bathroom sub floor was removed.

Last month he gently suggested that it was time to do something about the basement. He was right. There was no more avoiding it.

And unfortunately I had to be there for the humiliation. I took a day off last week to tackle my part. By the time John and one of his teenage sons arrived I'd filled the steps with trash bags.

There is nothing like a 15 year old boy staring at you to help make decisions. I was amazed by the stuff that I was coming across.

I would have sworn under the threat of taking my computer away that we did not have year books in junior high school. There they were, big as life. The eighth grade one had a page long letter from my friend Ann Herr. Written in purple marker -Donny Osmond's favorite color, you know. We were headed to different high schools and our 14 year old selves thought that we'd never see each other again. Ann signed the note "Nancy" as in Drew, our hero. I wish I could say that, 33 years later, we've outgrown our dorkiness, but I don't think so.

Speaking of not growing emotionally I ran across letters and cards from guys I've dated. I always say that I have not dated much, but in 25 years of dating a few men have floated through my life. Apparently I have not matured much. I found letters from three different guys, all with the same theme: You need to open your heart to someone, you need to trust, you need share your emotions, blah blah blah.

Until AVS, I always broke up with a guy when there was any kind of disagreement. I couldn't be bothered with fighting or trying to figure it out.

Fight equaled breakup.

The first time A and I had a big fight I said, "I guess that's it. We're done." He said, "just because I don't like you very much right now, doesn't mean that I don't love you."

That blew my mind. Seriously.

So with the dust and mold I was stirring up some emotions. Good thing there was a teenage boy there to keep me in check.

I tossed and recycled five truck loads of junk. A lot of it was boxes of stuff that just plain old melted. I always wondered what I needed with a scoop shovel in town, it finally came in handy. I just had to close my eyes and throw a lot of it away.

I photographed some stuff that I wanted to remember, but didn't need to save. Like my prom dress.....

And my favorite jeans....

And my childhood jewelry box (note the missing ballerina)....

I also found a folder from high school that I just thought was the coolest thing ever (remember, it was the 1970s - late in the 70s, mind you).

It had people and places to write captions. As you can see, I was all about pollution. And this proves that Al Gore didn't invent global warming - I did.

One of my witticisms really cracked me up...

My loopy writing is pretty funny also. I gave the folder a proper burial in a paper recycling bin.

I have an unnatrual affection for cranberries. Here is a card that a college friend made me.

Here is what the basement looks like at the end of the day. You can see the moldy floor and walls. The orange thing in the back was pushed up against the wall and I was using it for shelves. Who knew that I had a bar in the basement? Not that I can imagine anyone entertaining down there.

Getting rid of all of the trash was tricky. Luckily I have a zillion jobs and know about a few dumpsters in town. I took a few things out to the farm to burn on Sunday and just couldn't quite bring myself to throw this trophy in the fire.

1974 Reserve Grand Champion in Home Furnishings. I still have the table that I refinished in my living room. The Boone County Fair was going on just a few miles from the farm, and I was tempted to drive over and stick it near some kids project. If the name plate would not have been engraved, it would have been a done deal.


Cliff said...

You...are a brave woman. Nice job and I'm glad the kid was there too. We didn't need any pity party going along with the project.
I'm glad you quit wearing those jeans. They look like they might also have been favorites of the boys too.

Ralph said...

About a year ago we had our basement remodeled. I remember moving so many boxes it was unreal. It is worth it when done. DONE being the key word.

Granny Annie said...

"You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!" I am very proud of you Nora because it could not have been an easy task. What a great idea to take pictures of the things you're getting rid of so that you still have the memories and not the clutter. Just one more example of your brillance!

Monica said...

wow I keep everything, dehumidifier in my basement!!! I am fanatical about it!!! ahhh I have to go emty it now!!!

Rachel said...

Great work Nora! It's amazing how we want to hold onto all those things isn't it? I have to close my eyes sometimes and just toss stuff in the trash. I'm glad you took pictures of the dress and jeans! At least you still have the memories!

Rockwell Sexton said...

Wow! I can't believe you got through it all in one go! Quite a treasure chest. Sometimes I wish I had saved more stuff like that--realizing now it might have come in handy for a memoir (like the crazy letters my mom sent me when she was living on the streets, but my cold heart just chucked them away...)

Jerry said...

Various environmental elements (mold in garage, moths in house) have kept me lean and mean.

What are you going to do with the basement now?

Janell said...

Oh my goodness, Nora, this trek through your personal archeology was truly a treat! And I loved your prom dress! It's so much cooler than mine.