Reflections: The Basement

I’ve written about childhood rooms in the past: My bedroom and my family room.

Now, I’d like to walk you through a tour of our basement.

The basement stairs were located just right inside the kitchen entrance. When you opened the door, a waft of cool, musty air charged with burning electronic circuits would assault your senses. The stairs were narrow and you felt like you were pitching forward, forcing you to grab onto the railing as you descended them.

At the base of the stairs, on your right, was my mother’s sewing room. This is where she would hole up and make all of our clothes or work on her projects. (And may I just say? My mom is an AWESOME seamstress, thank you very much). It was stacked, to the ceiling, with all sorts of material and craft paraphernalia. I remember using her sewing machine a few times to work on a totebag for home economics in high school.

I grew to HATE that totebag because no matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t line up the seams right. It was the worst made totebag in the history of totebags, trust me. I also managed to sew my finger in her sewing machine, too. In fact, when the needle punctured my finger and I jerked back in reflex, it broke off in my finger (left a perfect needle-sized hole in my bone) and my mom had to rush me to the hospital while I sat there, holding my throbbing middle finger with a sewing needle embedded in it. It took four nurses to hold me down while the doctor yanked the needle out with a pair of pliers.

But that’s a story for another time. (Actually, that’s pretty much the entire story).

Exiting the sewing room, and back at the foot of the stairs to your right, was the door to the back patio. There were four/five stairs leading up to our fenced-in patio, the same patio where my brother stole my Barbie swimming pool, stripped down to his underwear, sat in the pool cross-legged and went “swimming.” My Barbie pool had two perfectly formed knee impressions permanently embedded in it from that time forward.

But I’ve since forgiven him for destroying my Barbie pool.

I have!

Sort of.

But back to the basement – when you enter the basement back through the patio door and descend the stairs, there is a shower immediately to your right. This shower has given me more than one nightmare throughout my lifetime. Our main bathroom didn’t have a shower, just a tub, and when I hit puberty and the thought of sitting in my own filth started to completely gross me out, (incidentally, it still does) I started using the scary shower in the basement. It was a no-frills, cold, concrete shower that smelled like moldy socks. It also housed many different types of spiders – I’m pretty sure I perfected my high-pitched girly scream while using that shower. In short, I hated that shower. But I hated taking a bath more, so I soon learned to live with the creepy-crawly insects that made a home in that shower from hell. (And by “learned to live,” I mean I closed my eyes and prayed that whatever creepy insect had taken up residence in that creepy shower for that day [because it seemed I saw a different type of insect/spider every time I used that damn shower] would not crawl into my small spaces, if you know what I mean).

Let’s get away from the shower, I’m starting to sweat just thinking about it.

The area next to the shower is a blur. I THINK we had a freezer (?) in that area and various other odds and ends – in essence, we used that area as a sort of storage space. I’m sure my mom is laughing and shaking her head right about now because I remembered it wrong -AGAIN. (She gets a kick out of telling me, “Oh Karen. That’s not what it looked liked/how it was at all!”).

My dad had his work area next to the storage area. He worked with electronics, so he had numerous TV sets in various stages of disrepair. In fact, most of the TV’s had their guts strewn all over his benches he had lined up around the room. He was always soldering wires, circuits and components together for various reasons so that it constantly smelled like charred wires in the basement. In fact, I can’t smell that smell today and NOT think of my dad. He spent a lot of time in his shop, working, experimenting, problem solving. I had no idea what he was doing and it was impressive that he knew what all of the tiny, foreign-looking components were. He absorbed that knowledge and later went on to write electronic classes for a college in New York.

Yes. My father is very intelligent. And yes, apparently that wasn’t a trait I inherited. Ha!

The last room in the basement was the family room / living room / TV room. We had a pretty large-sized TV and I remember watching a lot of shows down in the basement. We had our Atari gaming system down there, too, and though I played a lot of it, it seems like my brother was ALWAYS on there. I remember my sister watching a lot of cartoons as well. In fact, it got so out of control, that my parents had to step in and monitor her TV watching.

Sort of what I TRIED to do with the boys and their video games in the early years. I don’t dare monitor nowadays if I value my life. (I’m kidding. I totally pay attention to what they’re doing online and they aren’t allowed to stay on the ‘net all night long. Don’t judge, please).

It seems like dad had his weight bench and weights in that room, too, though I can’t be sure. And did we have one wall of mirrors? Like tiles of mirrors? Or maybe I dreamt that part.

I loved our basement. It was sort of a hole in the wall but I loved hanging out there (except for that shower – I avoided that thing until I had to use it. *shudder*) It was always cool and I was always hot (we didn’t have central air – just an attic fan) and though it smelled damp and musty, it was a comforting smell to me.

It was a comforting place to get away from it all.

Everyone needs a place like that, I think.

(This was only supposed to be a maximum of 750 words – it’s a little over 1,000. As usual, I went long).

Plinky Prompts

Driving is a Privilege

Describe the first time you drove a vehicle.

I can't. Because my memory sucks.

So, I'll tell you what I CAN remember. (Brace yourself, this will likely be a bumpy, disjointed ride as fragments of the past come flying at me from all directions).

I remember driving these monstrous driving simulators in Driver's Ed when I was in high school. I remember stepping into the box, sitting down and learning to drive in virtual reality. And that's pretty impressive, really, considering this was back in the early 80's. The schools don't have the simulators today – I guess they were too expensive to buy and maintain, but I remember taking my virtual driving lesson very seriously. Unlike my classmates that would purposefully swerve to hit various dogs and people innocently walking down the sidewalk.

I never understood their nonchalant attitude toward driving. Granted, we weren't really driving, but we were practicing and I could no longer run over a virtual dog or child than I could purposefully pull the wings off a butterfly – it just wasn't in me to be that kind of mean, even when it wasn't real.

I also remember those horrific, gruesome, truly disturbing Driver's Ed videos they made kids watch. You know, the videos of where people have died in blood-splattered, mangled heaps of metal because they weren't paying attention or made unwise decisions.

And that was WAY before cell phones and texting – distractions are ten-times worse now than they were back then.

Those films made an impact on me. They worked. They scared me to be a good driver.

This is not to say that I haven't made my fair share of stupid mistakes as a young driver. (There was the time I fell out of my car on my 19th birthday and busted my face wide open – which wouldn't have happened if I had been wearing my seat belt – but that's another post). But I have always been a pretty conscientious driver when it came to paying attention to those around me.

I can't remember if my parents ever took me driving. (Mom? Dad?) I barely remember taking my driver's test. I'm pretty sure I failed it the first time, though, because I couldn't parallel park to save my life. (Actually, I still can't. In fact, I could easily be one of those pathetic drivers you watch try to park on one of those funny YouTube videos that circulate from time-to-time).

I remember my husband teaching me to drive a stick shift. It was at the zoo parking lot and once I got the hang of the clutch, I caught on pretty fast. I drove a manual Nissan Sentra for seven years. I loved that car. It was fun to drive. In fact, I wonder if we made everyone drive a stick shift instead of an automatic nowadays if there wouldn't be fewer accidents. Driving an automatic "frees" people up so that they think they can put their makeup on, read a newspaper (I ACTUALLY saw someone doing that one time), eat their breakfast on their way to work, conduct business on their cell phone, or text their children (I see WAY more adults texting and driving than I do kids Seriously. That's the dumbest thing you can possibly do while driving. Don't do it. And if I see you do it, I will honk and be a total jerk to you because DUDE, pay attention to the freaking road!!)

But seriously. Why not? Driving a stick would require the driver to pay attention to what he/she was doing. There is no time to do anything but shift and and drive.

And of course, I taught my oldest son drive. That was just last year. We started in a parking lot. Once he got the hang of handling the car, we drove back roads. Then small city roads. Then busy city roads. Then the highway. Then at night.

Then he took the test. He was so nervous that he failed the first time. And he barely passed the second time because he went a little too fast in a 30 mph zone. But he passed. And he's a cautious driver, maybe too cautious. But better cautious than reckless.

I will be teaching my youngest son to drive in a few months. He will turn 16 and we will get his driver's permit. We didn't do anything about driving when he was 15 because I personally think 15 is way too young to put a child behind the wheel of a one-ton metal weapon. Most kids (most, there are exceptions) are just too immature to take on that responsibility.

Heck. I personally don't think kids should be allowed to drive until they turn 18, but whatever.

It's nerve wracking, teaching other people to drive. Especially for a control freak like myself. You're putting your life into someone's hands and I just don't trust other people all that much, if you want the truth. It seems like (most) people just don't have any common sense, at all. If they don't have someone (the media?) telling them what to do or what to think, then they don't think at all. It's scary, sad and quite frustrating, actually.

Even though our oldest son took Driver's Ed, things are different nowadays. They don't have simulators for the kids to practice on (at least, not in our area schools) and if the kids want to drive with an instructor, the parents have to pay for an insurance policy – which isn't cheap. I totally understand the need to do that, especially in our sue-happy society, but still … it discourages a lot of parents to allow their kids to practice with an instructor. It discouraged us. We regret it now, as we feel like our oldest son might have learned a little more from someone other than his parent (because we all know mom and dad don't know squat) – I just hope I taught him to be a good diver. Because his driving skills will reflect on me, as a person and as his mother.

Our youngest son hasn't taken Driver's Ed yet (actually, it's not a required course anymore, it was when I was a teenager), and though we would like for him to drive with an instructor, we don't know if we'll pay the money for him to do so. Money is tight and in addition to trusting that the instructor will teach him, I'm also trusting that the classmate that drives with him will know enough not to crash the car when it's his/her turn to take the wheel.

I have road rage. I'm not proud of myself for admitting that, but we're being honest here. i have ZERO patience for drivers who won't pay attention to their driving. I constantly use them as examples of what NOT to do to the boys whenever we're out and someone doesn't use their turn signal, or doesn't pay attention before changing lanes, or is distracted and not paying attention to the road … I could go on and on. I try not to get irrationally angry, but I'm not always successful. People who pull out right in front of me and require me to slam on my brakes will definitely get a dirty look from me and yes, I admit it, I will ride their bumper to "teach them a lesson." Though really, what sort of lesson am I teaching to my impressionable teenage sons?


I'm human though and people, generally speaking, drive me insane. Especially inconsiderate people. I drive my boys nuts whenever I allow people in line during high traffic times because I'm trying to teach them to be courteous to fellow drivers. It doesn't matter how much of a hurry you're in, or what kind of mood you're in, that's no excuse to be rude to people.

I don't know how much of that has sunk into my sons' heads, but at least I'm teaching them by example.

Driving is a privilege and I wish more people took it seriously.

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