Just two doors up the hill from post office, in a old grey farmhouse who’s farming days were in the distant past was a new crop of children growing between its wooden walls. This crop was shielded from the elements by sturdy walls of wood but mortared by the love of family. The house had peculiarities, idiosyncrasies in fact, that breathed life on cold winter days when the furnace belched to life and the pipes clanked the welcoming sound of warmth as the heat spread through its arteries and veins. Outside her resolute walls, the deadening claws of winter scratched, but to those within, the only evidence of the fight was the ice that thickly frosted the windows like cataracts on the eyes of a great, grey old lady. The walls along the staircase leading to the bedrooms curiously bulged through the wallpaper and a shameless older sister insisted, to her younger brother, that they were bulging bones of a corpse. The expansive basement floor was dry dirt that was easily stirred when traversed and the single lightbulb did nothing to illuminate the foreboding dark recesses.
Kids are a mixture unwitting fears and unrelenting curiosity. So despite their fears, they explored.
Far from the dangling light,
The heart of the house does beat.
It roars to life with fire and heat,
Too warm the house at our feet.
Behind the furnace against the far wall, were two large trunks, one black one brown, they would have fun to climb into and play except they were filled with junk. What was junk at eight years of age, are treasures to a 50 year old’s memory. Inside these trunks was a bounty of books that smelled of ages of wisdom, including an Atlas that actually described the central part of Africa as ‘Unknown’. Imagine its worth today. There were numerous fragile pictures of people, dressed proudly and proper from the past. And still more things packed both chests full of the ‘unknown’ that somehow cataloged the history of forgotten people from the same place that we called home.
On the opposite side of the basement from the rickety stairs, was the door leading to the ‘root cellar’. This root cellar, was separated from the furnace by a large heavy door, inside that room, it was always colder. So cold that on a winter’s day you might still see your breath. This place, like a mausoleum, had a large box taller than two coffins but not quite as long. A kid would have to jump up and rest his chest on the side to reach into cold sand and dig to find the carrots and potatoes his mother requested for dinner.
As the kids grew and change this basement blossomed too. A thick layer of cement was placed to cover the dirt floor, decreasing the already low clearance of the ceiling. Sheetrock was added between the darkly aged timbers that like a skeleton supported the house above. And long fluorescent tubes of light chased away all the dark recesses.