Thursday, May 10, 2018

The Basement

Sunday is Mothers Day

Whenever Mothers Day rolls around, I think about my father and the basement of that flat where we lived in San Francisco for the first 18 years of my life.

Every year around Mothers Day, my father would take me down to the basement so I could wrap his gift for my mother for him.

He always bought her some fancy lingerie but he couldn't wrap gifts at all and was very happy that I could.
In the days after they invented the ribbon that stuck to itself when moistened, I mastered the art of making ribbon roses and loved to wrap packages.  

I wish now that I had photos of some of the packages I  wrapped.  I remember one package, a gift for my typing teacher, Sister Anne, that I was sending to her in Phoenix.  The top was covered with ribbon roses and a big bow and I had to build  barricade around them to keep them from squishing when mailing.  She was amazed when it arrived.

I continued to fancy wrap packages until we had kids and wrapping gifts with the comics from the paper took the place of all that time to make roses.  I never went back to those days, though I have occasionally tried different forms of fancy wrap.  Now that bags for gifts are all the rage, I am more likely to take the easy way out and use a bag and tissue paper.

Our basement was an adventure.  The entrance to it was from our tiny cement back yard and we went down a flight of steps, like into the bowels of the earth.  Once my father unlocked the door, we went into a one-person-wide little entry way with dirt walls and into a tiny room, with dirt walls and dirt floor, that was lined with boxes of "stuff."  It had a table, a small work bench, and one bare light bulb hanging over the table.  Off to the side, behind a lot of pipes or other things that did work for the house were a couple of big boxes of Life Magazines.  My father had saved them all through the war and was heartbroken when I discovered that some of them had pictures of Judy Garland and cut those pictures out!

(Later the basement flooded and one of the boxes was ruined, so I was glad I had taken the Garland pictures!)

At the end of the little basement was a door and when you opened it it opened onto this huge cavernous second basement.  It really belonged to the couple  that owned the building, but since my father did handyman work for them and since the guy was too old to work on stuff like that any more, it really became my father's work room.

(When I look at pictures of the flat today on Google images, I see that the basement is now a garage and lord knows they needed it!  When we lived  there it was not out of the question to drive around for half an hour trying to find a place to park!)

My father was an OK handyman, but not a great one.  Things never quite turned out the way he planned.  He built his magnum opus, a record cabinet, in that basement.  I don't know how long it took him, but when it was finished there was space for the record player and then shelves that housed most of, but probably not all of his records.  

He built it to fit in a little cubby hole type of thing near our dining room.  He was most proud that he varnished it to a fair thee well.  Several layers, each dutifully rubbed with soft steel wool before applying the next coat.  Each night he would come up to dinner, bragging about what he had done that day and how smooth the surface of it was going to be.

When it was all finished, he brought the cabinet upstairs and glowed at this magnificent thing he had built. It was lovely and was very smooth.

Then he carried it down the hall to the cubby hole and when he tried to stand it up discovered he had measured wrong and it was 1/2" too tall and would not fit. 

That was NOT a good day in our house.

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