Thursday, December 25, 2003

A Whiff of the Past

While celebrating Christmas at my aunt and uncle's newly built (with their own hands) house, I ventured into their still-to-be finished basement. As I traveled down the wooden stairs, an urge came over me to sneak and creep, as though only things meant to go unseen lay ahead. Things not yet ready for their picturesque, Currier and Ives home.

Softly, quietly I swept down half panel/half plaster lined stairwell. Memories flooded back to my aunt and uncle's previous houses where my cousin and I would retreat to the basement, at first to play with our Cabbage Patch Kids or Castle GraySkull, later to discuss how playing She-Ra was so much easier than trying to be a real life She-Ra. I thought about the summer before ninth grade, sitting in the basement playing the Ouija board with my cousin's clique, holding hands with Scotty Schultz when they'd turn out the lights.

Sleepovers, stories, secrets came back to me as I descended into the unfinished unknown. Then I got to the bottom and turned to the right, where the rec room would have been and the pictures melted into concrete and cardboard. The old oven where my uncle roasted our turkey sat now cold against the back wall. To the right of it, my uncle's tool bench ran along an entire side of the basement, tools hung neatly in their places on the wall. Now I turned full-circle toward the front of the room, back in the direction of the staircase, and there it shone in the pale light filtering down the stairwell.

Standing before me, nay, shining before me in chrome and glass and dark paneled wood of its own, glistened not a momentum of my past here, in Milwaukee, but in my own home. I heaved open the glass top and the smell of vinyl swept over me, the smell of 45s, the smell of The Beach Boys and The Drifters mixed with Tiffany and Lita Ford, the smell of huge Father's Day picnics, of play sock hops at sleepovers of my own; the smell of the past. This was our jukebox. Mine, my dad's, my mom's, my sister's. It used to sit just to the right of where I now type, a space now inhabited by an extra desk acting as a book stand for Williamsburg: Before and After and The Pictorial History of the Civil War. Today it lies in a cement tomb with its grave marker touting the name "Paul Anka."