I have lived in this house for something like five years now, but I have yet to make every part of the house my own–at least in the sense of going through all the things left behind by previous owners and tenants over the close-to-sixty-year lifespan of the structure.
One such unaccounted place is the basement bunker. It was probably built to be a cool storage place for canned goods–it’s a cinder-blocked-in ten-by-ten or so room with a wobbly wooden door in the southwest corner of the basement. The light doesn’t work unless you weight the pull cord, which I’ve done by tying the cord the the handle of a box fan, tipping the fan over to keep the bulb lit when I’m working in there.
In the first couple years I lived here (then with my ex-husband), there was a sort of ghost or presence that lurked mostly near or in the bunker room. I called him Homer, and didn’t even know he was there until the autumn my husband got meningitis and was in the hospital for a few days. I was home alone with our son, and I spent more time than usual in the basement.
One night I was down there doing laundry, and I felt this very strong, negative presence. I could not get out of that basement quickly enough! I asked my husband about it in his hospital room the next day (a little tentatively for fear of being thought ridiculous), and he said, “you just have to play a little music down there and keep the bunker door open and he’s fine.”
It has been some time now since Homer has been around–about the time we had the big branch of the cottonwood tree taken down that overhung that part of the house, his presence dissipated.
While the room was likely built for cool storage, over the years that room turned into a catch-all for all manner of appliances, construction materials, and the detritus of living. It’s a great place to stick something out of sight and out of mind. But, needing the storage space myself, and wanting to take a full accounting of what’s in there, I’ve started clearing it out.
So far I’ve found some good things–a plumber’s snake, a trailer hitch, some fireplace tools and even a fireplace heater system–a fire grate constructed of tubes coupled with a fan that connects to those tubes to blow the hot air into the room. I’m a little scared of it, but I think I’ll keep it.
I’ve also found some not-so-great things: some old rubber bath mats, paint-spattered molding with lots of little nails sticking out, sharp pieces of aluminum sheeting, bent curtain rods, and a nice collection of dead spiders and cobwebs.
My dear H will get some of the good-quality construction materials for this summer’s repairs on one of his houses in town–the sheet rock and the old bathroom sink and the cement board. Much of what I haul out will get thrown in my pickup for a ride to the dump, and a few other things will go to the Civic Council for others to make use of.
This seems the way of so many of my projects–they start out with a small idea and grow into a mega-sized monster project. In this case, what started as cleaning the main area of my basement so I could get seeds started mid-month has turned into a holistic basement cleaning and reorganizing project that has me running to the dump, the Civ, various friends’ houses, and the post office.
But, at least I’m not being haunted by a grumpy ghost while I’m doing it!