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Mychal Wilmes: The basement doesn't wait

Smoke bellowed from the bulldozer's muffler as it tore into our double-wide trailer. Brittle two-by-fours and walls crashed into the basement while we held hands and watched from a safe distance.

Kathy had long dreamed that the old home would be replaced by something new, with an open porch and brick entryway.

The machine's roar woke me before I could consider how the mortgage holder would react to the news that its considerable investment had been destroyed.

The doctor was right when he said that the new prescription pills designed to end a nicotine addiction might cause unusual and potentially unsettling dreams that even the living room dream-catcher wouldn't catch. The first dream was followed by another that took us on a car ride to the Pacific Ocean, where we would travel across the bridge to Hawaii to escape winter.

The subconscious, which works in strange ways, obviously wants me to avoid winterizing the home.


The project will involve replacing four rotten and glassless window frames that allowed heaps of snow to enter the basement. Despite the obvious need, the project remained buried on the to-do list until a squirrel made the basement its new home and refused to leave until a shovel and broom chased it away.

"What would you have done if it had been a skunk,'' Kathy asked, before suggesting that we would have temporarily moved to a hotel room.

We've had other visitors. A sparrow, a couple of bats, a chipmunk and a raccoon that scurried across the roof are among our most unwelcome guests.

Kathy thinks we can do better. She remains optimistic that the basement's naked walls, damp floor and general unpleasantness can yet be replaced by carpeting, a pool table, a fireplace and a wide-screen television. It's been a two-decades long exercise in patience while she waits for me to rise to the occasion. Time and money are excuses for a lack of will and skill.

My parents' voices say it's time to get going.

Their basement was more important than mine. The two-by-six shelves bolted in the wall were lined with newspapers and loaded with jars filled with jellies, jams, fruit, canned tomatoes and pressure-cooker prepared meats. Each jar was labeled and dated so Mother knew what she had and would need. It had been a good growing season if the potato bin in the corner was filled with spuds, winter squash, onions and carrots buried in sand. Seeds from the harvest were kept fertile in baby food jars.

The bounty would be gone before the next summer came.

September's arrival meant the wood room near the furnace was stacked tight with elm and maple chunks meant to last until deep winter. A make-shift clothesline near the furnace held bins that awaited snow-wetted clothes.


Sadness weighed heavy as the shelves and jars were emptied for the last time before the home changed hands.

With a little encouragement, the window project will get done this week without too much frustration.

I hope the strange dreams continue for a while longer. Who knows, one of them might involve a finished basement, with a wood pile near a crackling fireplace and a clothes line burdened with heavy, wet clothes.

Mychal Wilmes is managing editor of Agri News, a weekly agriculture newspaper published by the Post-Bulletin Co. His column appears every Monday.

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