I often wonder, why my grandmother would store her Christmas decorations in such an awful place. Every year around Christmas time I become overcome with anxiety anticipating the call of my grandmas sweet, cracked voice saying, Hey sweetie do you mind coming to help me set up my house for the holidays? Shiny tinsel, colorful ornaments, and intricate nativity scenes all stored in a place of descended horror. Why is the basement, the origin of my childhood’s most haunting memories, right below the home of the best times of the year? Dread, anxiety, and clammy hands all overcome me as I make my way down those creepy stairs that lead to that room.
A room filled with all the things I hate: unidentified smells, cool damp concrete floors, and walls that create nothing except structure and never ending echoes that haunt my mind and send chills throughout my limp body.
As I reach the foundation, I instantly step on glass thats scattered across the floor from multiple break-ins over the years, wondering why someone would choose to enter this terrifying place of discomfort.
I start to feel all along the nineteen fifties veneer, wood paneled walls searching desperately for the light switch. As Im searching I know that the lights have been blown since well before my time. I finally begin to get my bearings as my eyes start to adjust to small amount of light coming through the now barred up basement windows. Now, I can see all my fears before my eyes. My senses are heightened as my body goes into survival mode. The smell only death could initiate overcomes my nostrils; it must be the smell of moisture thats soaked into the asbestos covered surfaces of the room over the years. I look around frantically, remembering why I am there, but all I can do is freeze as I hear the sound of water leaking from the old farm house sink, the still creaking staircase, and the ghostly echoes of my elevated heart rate ringing in my ears. All things I wish I never had to experience, yet I know that they are all part of the traditions of Christmas at that house.
All of my life I have wondered what lies in the decrepit house at the end of the street, or the little house on the way to school, or the perfect house in the wealthy neighborhood you drive through. I have learned from an early age that a house isnt just about the wrap around porch, rocking chair, the bright red door, or a perfectly hung door hanger. A house has stories and secrets that lie below the surface, that no one knows or sees. The unknown is what keeps me from opening any doors in houses I dont know. I carry the fear of what lies under the house on Elm. It may be picture perfect on the outside, but the lasting effects of every single aspect of that basement, from the way the air smelt to the texture of the walls, show me how little the facade reflects what is under that house.