After several years of apartment living, making do with few closets and little storage space, my husband and I began shopping for a home -- and we knew we had to have a basement.
We found a house in North Massapequa with four bedrooms and a garage for our young and growing family. This house needed some sprucing up, but no project was too great -- because we knew there was a basement to hold all our supplies for works in progress.
I think I speak for many Long Island homeowners when I confess that my basement is not pretty. No comfy couches to plop on. No pool table to provide entertainment when friends visit. No dart board. No bar.
On occasion, I have found myself scurrying down the basement steps, picking up odds and ends along the way, just before the furnace man arrives for our yearly tuneup.
At first the basement was unfinished, but in time we added paneling and a drop ceiling. There is a clothes-drying stand, the obligatory dehumidifier, exercise equipment and a pantry closet. Since I grew up in an Italian household surrounded by grandparents and aunts and uncles, the family joke is my pantry houses 10 cans of chick peas, 10 boxes of pasta and a case of canned tomatoes at all times.
We still have assorted supplies from scout and classroom assignments from when our children were growing up. And there are supplies from my own craft ventures, with paints and beads and fabrics.
One afternoon while working at my sewing machine, I heard a clanking noise on the other side of the basement. I opened the furnace chute and found two eyes staring at me. It was a squirrel covered in soot. The poor animal had fallen down the chimney. My husband used a long pole to coax him into a burlap bag. We carried him to the local sump and set him free.
To be fair, I have always shared the clutter with my husband. We have a his and hers basement. One side of the steps is "male country." A workbench, with only four wooden legs visible, is covered by mounds of guy stuff -- extension cords, light bulbs and old fixtures -- that haven't found their way over to the nearby garbage can. Spray cans, sandpaper of every grade, rusty nails and various small tools rest on shelves above the workbench.
And so another fall is here. The summer vegetables are harvested, all the lawn chairs are put away, and it's time again to tackle the basement.
There are no kids at home to blame the mess on. My husband must admit that the little scraps of wood he has been saving for a birdhouse won't assemble themselves. And I must reduce a collection of vases that would make a funeral parlor proud.
This basement, in all its sprawling chaos, represents 45 years of living and memories. Still, I visualize a sign on my front lawn that reads "Basement for Sale -- As Is" and wish someone could miraculously make sense of the space and leave me to tackle other projects -- like the garage for instance. But that mess will wait. There is just so much fun I can take!