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Bob Martz shares thoughts and feelings with his daughters:


Twelve years ago we built a big house.  At the time, our girls were ten, seven, and five years old.  In the house is a basement that runs under the entire building.  It is a big basement.  We put a false wall down the middle and made a family room on one side, but there was still a lot of room.  It was still a big basement, and here the girls played.  Each had an area that was exclusive.  The youngest, underneath the stairs with a piece of carpet that almost fit.  It gave her a big advantage over her sisters who had no carpet.

Here, they organized a litter campaign, complete with slogans on the wall. which are still there in crayon.  Here they dressed Barbie dolls, and not only on the grey days, the snow days, the rain days, but summer sunshine days when it was hot.  The basement was naturally cool.  The three girls lived for many years in the basement.  Like trolls, coming up for air once in a while, or Kool-Aid, or a mustard sandwich.

The basement was always, and still is -- messy.  Small chairs grew like mushrooms around rickety tables, held together with wire and screws that never went all the way into the wood.  Doll clothing and sequins.  My lord, the floor was blanketed with sequins -- and still a broom or a sweeper will find twelve year old sequins hiding.

Last week I decided to clean the basement, and so I entered this old world and swept sequins, and piled chairs on top of tables, and broomed cobwebs from in between the studs . . . and thought.  In one corner I piled the remains of these girls' childhood.  In a box -- one small box.

What happened do you suppose to all the things they played with?  I suspect over the years we gave some away.  Some too badly damaged . . . we threw out, but there were mountains, and now it can all be placed in one small box.

Two cap pistols (but three holsters), plaster casts of Batman and Robin, and three shells with yarn hair.  One looked like Ernie, one who looked like Bert, and one who looked like no one I knew.  Three round stones with fabric on them (a paper weight?).  A round tin can, like a candy can, with thread and sequins.  Three cone dolls made from rolled paper, one most certainly a witch, one probably a princess, one just a lady, some cloth.

I sat for a while in this big basement with my ten year old, now a teacher at a large university.  I sat with my seven year old, now a college student, and I sat with the five year old, a senior in high school.  They never come down to the basement anymore, even though I say things like, "When I cleaned up the basement," and "Now you guys can play Barbie."

When did they leave the basement?  Did they all leave together, or one at a time?  Who was the first to come up the stairs and not go down again?  What grade were they in?  Did the youngest spend as much time in the basement as the two older ones?  After all, being in the basement alone can't be a good thing.

What about me?  Where was I when they came out of the basement?  Did I know then?  Was I too busy? Did I spend enough time in the basement with them?  Was I too busy for the basement?  Too busy with one of my jobs, too busy in a bar, trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents.

Twelve years when you go from thirty nine to fifty one isn't important.  But twelve years when you go from five to seventeen, or seven to nineteen, or ten to twenty two is an appalling length of time, and brutally too short.  I'm glad we had a big basement, warm in winter, cool in summer, but now that it's all cleaned up, I hope it stays clean.  I don't want to go into the basement anymore.


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