We kept the TV in the basement, a big black and white with only three channels. There was a dusty old couch and an ugly length of carpet with unfinished edges covering half the room. It was a good place to get away.
Because I was so young, I experienced a lot of wonder in that basement. The place isn’t the point—it was a utilitarian, semi-furnished basement, with cheap boarding covering the wall pipes, and slick 50’s tiles on the floor. But I watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan there, dancing among some colorful saris we’d hung from the pipes. I drew masterpieces on the large chalkboard there. I created performances with my siblings, but then panicked before the invited audience of two—Mom and Dad. When we got a new washing machine, the best game ever was getting inside the box it came in and being rolled around the room. We had a spook house there, sending the neighborhood kids behind the wooden boards to walk through hanging strings in the dark, then putting their hands into a bowl of cold spaghetti. Grapes became eyeballs to the touch, and a sheet became a shrouded ghost.
There were two even less finished areas down there, with gray cement floors. The laundry room with old zinc tubs on a diagonal, and a back storage area next to the paint-flaking furnace. Behind the furnace was an even more mysterious area, tucked under the stairs. You’d slip sideways around the dark corner and into that slanted almost-room, feel in the dark for the string and turn on the bulb. For so long I was too short to reach the string and see what was on those shelves—rocks for an abandoned geology project, typed labels scattered around. Even when I got tall enough and could go back there easily, the little space retained an air of mystery. The rarely used spaces in the house seemed to have stories to tell.
I didn’t know that the stories were being created all around me, as I passed through these spaces during hide and seek, hid special boxes of candy where no one would find them, or just went to see what the glittery rocks could tell me. I always expected more, and I still think more is there. These spaces haunt my dreams.