Is there an ongoing battle in your house about which “treasures” to keep and which to discard?

Welcome to the club

If you are the kind of person who simply can’t part with all those sentimental gems from generations past and have a Mr. or Ms. Throw-it-away at home, you will relate to this tale!

(This story appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2004)

There’s gold in basement… priceless memories

By Judy Harch

My basement has become a living history museum. Pieces of my life story are scattered among dusty boxes, plastic containers, and shelves laden with the fallout of 40 years of accumulated stuff. The exhibits in this museum have moved to three locations during that time.

My basement also happens to be an archive for my children’s life stories. It slowly evolved into a storehouse for special toys from days gone by, an assortment of outgrown beds, and books ranging from easy readers purchased at school book fairs to outdated college textbooks that my girls just couldn’t part with.

Every so often, my husband descends the stairs to the basement, stops on the bottom step and shakes his head. He doesn’t have to say a word. I just pat him on the shoulder and tell him to be patient. I’m the pack rat. He’s Mr. Throw-It-Away. But how do you part with priceless treasures such as these? They’re our autobiographies, for goodness’ sake!

Our museum wasn’t always confined to the basement. There was the piano. When our younger daughter decided to take lessons, we purchased it. She was 7. She’s now 34.

When she first left the nest, the piano had to stay. She couldn’t take it to college. Then she moved to an apartment. Nope. It couldn’t accommodate the piano. Then there was a series of apartments. Same problem. The piano sat in our living room, big as a sore thumb. My husband and I moved to a new home. The piano moved with us. Ever price a piano move? Not cheap.

Eventually, both daughters married and bought homes of their own. One problem: Each bought a home with no basement. My husband just shook his head and said, “Why do they need a basement? They’ve got ours.” I patted him on the shoulder and reminded him to be patient.

There is a happy ending to this tale of woe. All good things come to those who wait. Slowly, but surely, chunks of our history began leaving the basement. And, oh, what a wonderful trip they took.

The maple cradle that had rocked our babies was carried up the stairs, out the door, to a new home to begin rocking our grand-babies to sleep. The old, special toys found new chubby hands to wrap around them. Once those little hands became more adept, they began clinking away on their mommy’s piano, which now lives in Mommy’s house (hooray).

The easy readers found fresh new eyes and ears. The college textbooks may have to wait a while.

Little by little, the beds made their exits. New little people now bounce up and down on their soft, cushy mattresses.

And then there was the canopy bed. Our elder daughter had wanted it when she was a little girl. I made a frilly eyelet dust ruffle and canopy top for her. As the years passed, it sat dismantled and dormant in our basement as one, two, three little grandsons arrived. Would it ever spring to life again?

Yes! Along came Erin. A delightful mix of sugar and spice. She has just turned 4 years old. Her mommy asked Pop Pop to dust off the canopy bed and give it a fresh coat of paint. It was delivered a few weeks ago to the Pink Palace, also known as Erin’s bedroom.

Mattresses are considerably thicker these days. So, Miss Erin looks, for all the world, like the princess from The Princess and the Pea perched up there on high, giggling and laughing upon her new throne.

So ladies, if you’re having trouble persuading your Mr. Throw-It-Away to keep your living museum intact, just tell him that the sparkle in a grandfather’s eye is worth every inch of space in a jam-packed basement. Good luck…

UPDATE: Eleven years have passed. Grandchildren have grown up. One is now a college graduate (no, he didn’t use the old textbooks), and one will graduate next spring (he’s not using them either). The youngest grandson is a high school senior. I’m betting he won’t want the books either. Erin is almost fifteen and still loves her sky-high canopy bed. Our basement is now divided into several rooms (an effort by Mr. Throw-it-Away to bring order to chaos). There is a big storage room that remains the battlefield between Ms. Save-it and Mr. Throw-it-Away. I’ve won some, lost some. It’s all about compromise…

(Photo courtesy of Stuart Mills at freedigitalphotos.net)

2 thoughts on “OUR LIVING HISTORY MUSEUM – The Basement

  1. Judy, I just love your story. Just as you & I have know each other since we were young girls. We have know our husbands just as long. So the big word is definitely for Harve & I buy a CONDO. Love, Annie


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