Our basement has been host to a variety of purposes over the years.
When we first moved into this house Son #1 was four years old, Son #2 was two years old and Son #3 was a month old.
Our basement was carpeted - the perimeter of the room was lined with colorful blue, red and yellow rubbermaid tubs that were filled with bristle blocks, tonka trucks and many Playskool toys. The bins allowed the kids to clean up messes easily and find all of their toys easily. It provided organized chaos.
In the corner we had a stack of cardboard bricks for building forts. The bookshelves housed about 100 pieces of various shaped smooth wooden blocks. There was a large basket containing hundreds of Match Box and Hot Wheel cars. There was also a tall multicolored parking garage. In the center of the room, a large carpet designed to look like a town with winding roads and parking spaces.
On any given day, as you descended our stairs you would find that Son #1 had used all of the above referenced toys to concoct an amazing imaginary wonderland. Buildings were erected, roads were perfectly lined up and all of the boys would drive their collection of cars through the maze, stopping at McDonald's for french fries and climbing the parking garage ramp to watch their cars spiral down the slide from the top repeatedly. This play would go on nicely and beautifully for hours. It was the ideal basement.
I hadn't done any formal decorating on the walls. It was the kids' space to play. So I began to hang all of their preschool art projects on the walls. By the time Son #3 was four, the walls were covered with each of their drawings, paintings and elaborate creativity. They loved seeing their creations wallpapering their space. It built their confidence and kept my refrigerator uncluttered.
Still the blocks remained in the center of the floor building the dreams of those boys day in and day out.
About 5 years ago, when the older boys were in middle school, we did a bit of remodeling to that basement. They complained that it was too babyish and their little sister's toy kitchen and baby dolls were cramping their style. We pulled up the carpet and put down laminate flooring. We bought a big screen television that rested upon an entertainment center that was home to the XBOX, Playstation and Guitar Hero. To the left of the entertainment center, a fooseball table and shuffleboard table lined the walls where the Tonka trucks once parked. The Karaoke Machine sat beside the guinea pig cage and what had been our nice family room furniture became the basement furniture for the kids to lounge upon with their friends.
The bookshelves were now topped with board games, puzzles, DVD movies and video games. But on the bottom shelf the wooden blocks remained. Stacked neatly and nicely.
Over the past four years, a weight bench, wrestling mats and dart board have taken up residence in that basement. All of the artwork peeled off of the walls, and tucked away safely in the cedar chest at the foot of my bed. Becoming a haven for teenagers and their friends to hang out in the heat of the summer or cold of the winter.
But the wooden blocks remained.
The guinea pig finally died just the other week and she joined the other pets buried in the backyard under the large oak tree. Her cage was finally cleaned out permanently and left a large space at the bottom of the stairs.
But the wooden blocks remained.
Last week my husband began painting the basement. We decided the basement no longer needed to be a "kids only zone". We are preparing to make it nice recreation room now. An area that is now "adult friendly." I have even considered putting a live Christmas tree down there this year to accompany the large fake one in the family room upstairs.
We've picked out our paint color. I've picked out the new window treatment. Last night we purchased the new furniture. REAL furniture. Nothing that we are worried about the kids trashing anymore. REAL grown up furniture. Because our kids are growing up.
I've looked at art prints for the walls. Even considering a large wall mirror - no longer worried that flying Nerf balls would shatter it or wrestling boys would ricochet each other off of those walls and knock it down.
So the other night my husband and I were sitting down in that basement discussing our plans. Designing. Preparing. What would be going to Goodwill. To the dump. What we would keep. What would go.
I turned to the built in bookshelves and looked at the hodge podge collected over the past 17 years. John Grisham books leaning up against Disney movies. Candy Land resting upon Texas Hold Em Poker. As my eyes wandered over the shelves, I realized I was watching the years pass. The stages they had all be in. Watching them grow up right there on that bookshelf.
Then my eyes fell to the lowest bookshelf on the floor. Nestled behind the end table on that shelf were the wooden blocks.
The wooden blocks that Santa had brought to Son #1 when he was 5 years old.
There they were still neatly stacked after all of these years.
As my husband was shouting out all of the things we would be getting rid of - he looked to see what had caught my eye. He said, "And then there are those wooden blocks."
I felt like I had been kicked in the chest and literally made an effort to breathe in and out.
I tried to speak.
But what came out was more of a squeak and the tears began to flow. My lip quivering though I fought it to be still.
"I always thought I'd keep those. I never thought about them ever being gone. They were always out. They are HIS. They are WHO he is."
The tears rolled down my cheeks.
My husband started to laugh.
"Are you crying over the blocks?"
I knew how silly it must seem and I half heartedly laughed and cried simultaneously.
My husband started to climb the stairs where Son #1 sat in the family room. He announced to Son #1 - "You're making your mother cry."
Son #1 completely confused responded - "What? I am? What do you mean? I didn't do anything."
Then my husband told the whole family how I had broken down over the wooden blocks. They all had a good laugh.
All I can say is the new furniture is being delivered next Wednesday. It is beautiful and I am very excited. Excited about my "new space."
But I am pretty sure those blocks are still going to be on that shelf in the corner. Because it just isn't time.
"I always knew looking back on the tears would make me laugh, but I never knew looking back on the laughs would make me cry." - Unknown