One recent Sunday morning I found myself sitting alone in the center of the finished part of our
basement otherwise referred to as the “kids” side. My wife Linda was “spinning” her way cross-
country at the nearby health club and the boys, David and Evan were somewhere upstairs doing
who knows what. David, fourteen and eleven year-old brother Evan must have declared an
armistice because that morning it was so quiet in our house that it was downright scary.
Like the proverbial calm
before the storm, the silence of these lambs could only portend ill will for dear old dad. The war
and pestilence that threatens to consume our world will surely fall by the wayside long before those
two figure out how to get along.
Come to think of it, if David and Evan are that quiet, what am I doing sitting here in the cellar.
Maybe I should run upstairs and check on things, for surely they must be up to something. Better
to be safe than sorry I suppose. Wait a minute, is it my imagination or is that the smell of wood
burning, the sound of glass breaking, the wail of sirens growing ever closer. Oh, well,
since neither of the boys is screaming bloody murder and it’s been well over an hour since the last
body slam was executed, perhaps I should leave well enough alone. Besides, now is as good a time
as any to sort through the mass of toys and games that surround me and try to figure out what to
do with the ones that have long since outlived their usefulness.
It is highly unusual for me to have the “kids” side of the cellar to myself because the boys have
fiercely protected their turf since we moved into our home a dozen years ago. Apparently David and
Evan have no interest whatsoever in sharing such a prime piece of real estate with my wife and me,
ever. But today, I have infiltrated the enemy encampment and must act expeditiously to carry out
this critical mission before my foes discover that security has been breached. Armed with only a
handful of plastic trash bags I set out to sift my way through the rubble.
Throwing things away has always posed an extraordinary challenge for me, a self-avowed pack rat
suffering from a multigenerational inability to part with things great or small, new or broken,
necessary or needless. So there I was on an exceptional Sunday morning, surrounded by
videogames, Legos, books and magazines, board games, rubber action
figures lying face down in the most unnatural of positions and limp and lifeless stuffed animals. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure I thought, and who
really knows whether those stuffed animals or broken games will one day become collector’s items.
Where have the years gone I thought looking around and picking up toy after toy each with its own
remarkable story to tell? Oh, if only Floppy the rabbit could tell me about the secrets whispered to
him by David and the conversations that only the two of them shared over the years.
The battered old baseball that Evan forever bounced off our tired cellar walls which cracked just a
tiny bit more as his arms grew stronger and his throws increasingly more accurate and powerful.
Flipping through the yellowed pages of Good Night Moon I drifted back to those many evenings
Linda or I would tuck the boys snugly under their covers and read that enduring, wonderful classic
and countless others over and over. “Daddy read the story again”, David or Evan would plead and
I would do so until they could no longer keep their tiny eyes from closing.
Drifting back I thought about the many nights that I would look at David and Evan lying in their
beds so peaceful, warm and safe and wonder how I will feel one day when they are no longer safely
ensconced within our home under my watchful eyes. What thoughts will race through my mind
once they are teenagers and late coming home from a party or not coming home at all.
How about the hundreds of checker games, board games and fish that I played with the boys letting
them win over and over again because I couldn’t bear to see the tears and frustration over not being
able to beat their old man. Now I have all that I can do to beat David and Evan at anything,
particularly games requiring dexterity and speed such as the videogames that we sometimes play
and I always lose. What about the thousands of throws that Evan and I have exchanged over the
years in preparation for his eventual career in professional baseball.
I sat there thinking about how one day I would again reign supreme over the “kids” side of the
basement. King once again of the cellar, master of all I survey. Never again to be relegated to
lifting weights alongside the washer, the dryer or Hewby’s litter box. But my victory would be a
hollow triumph and one that would come with great anguish. One day, the cellar will indeed fall
silent, but it will be an eerie silence that begs for the days when David and Evan, my babies were
living under our roof. Clutching Floppy, gently stroking his aging fur and giving him a kiss I felt
tears welling up in my eyes and sensed the underlying feelings of helplessness in knowing
that we are all losing the battle against time. Thoughts of watching my sons grow up to
be men and going off to follow their dreams, wherever they may take them.
Sooner than I can bear to imagine David and Evan will be off to college, perhaps married, maybe
even living out of town or even worse out of country. No longer would Linda and I
have the pleasure of telling the boys to turn down the TV, the delight in hearing their laughter and
the joy of wiping the cookie crumbs from their face. Standing up, putting the bags aside I decided
that perhaps today was not such a good day to clean out the cellar, the finished side, the “kids”