The basement renovations were completed just in time for my teenage years.
The basement became my domain. My sister did not seem interested in it and my Father grudgingly shared it. My Mother pretty much ignored it and stayed in her room with “inner ear” issues.
My Mother always used “inner ear” issues to get out of doing anything she didn’t want to do. No matter what it was…if she didn’t want to do it or deal with it, she went to bed with “inner ear”. I think that was a pseudonym for Valium.
In any event, my Father and I thoroughly enjoyed the new basement.
We did have some issues to work out. I expected the new bath to be mine exclusively. He explained that a) I was not a Rockefeller and b) his main reason for redoing the basement was to avoid sharing a bathroom with my Mother and Sister.
I grudgingly allowed him to use the new bathroom also…I didn’t like it, but I dealt with it.
The new basement continued to be the party room.
The hard part was evicting my Father from the parties.
As I have said, Daddy liked his bourbon. And his beer. He loved to sit in his recliner in front of the TV and drink and smoke his pipe. I think he also loved the fact my Mother generally stayed upstairs and I generally stayed in my new bedroom and played show tunes. He finally had some peace, if not quiet.
Daddy liked his music, too. He loved to listen to opera. He loved the Texaco Opera Theatre and would listen to it in the car on NPR while waiting for me to finish my piano lessons on Saturdays. He would also play opera records on the stereo in the den. He also really got into “Evita” with Patti Lupone, when I bought that record in the late 1970’s. That raised some uncomfortable questions about Daddy that I would just as soon ignore.
He also loved to drink with my friends. One friend in particular. Whenever this friend came over, he would offer to buy her beer and sit and chat with her. I will point out, it was legal to drink at 18 in those days and this friend was a lesbian. Daddy didn’t know that- and she didn’t admit or acknowledge it then, but he loved to drink beer with her anyway. She was the first one of my friends to smuggle booze into the house for one of our parties. She poured a bottle of white wine into a Sprite bottle when we were about 15…
She was also the only person who could speak to him as an equal. I’ll never forget how annoyed we were when he bought my sister a new car when she was 15 years/eight months old. We had no right to be annoyed as it was a Chevette, but still, I had to pay for my used Chevy Vega.
She was the one who had the nerve to ask him why he did that. He told her he thought his little girl had to have a new car so it wouldn’t break down. He said, you didn’t have to worry about boys and their cars breaking down, but what would she do if her car broke down? My friend said: “If she had any goddamn sense, she would call a tow truck.” They agreed to disagree…
To back track a bit, I remember the first big party we had in the new basement. It was bout 1974 when I was about 16. It was a “make out” party. The whole purpose of having a party was to get to the last hour when you lowered the lights and made out to Oliva Newton John, The Carpenters or Bread.
Not knowing I was Gay yet, I thought the party was about atmosphere. The First National Bank of Danville gave away all these free oil lamps when you opened a Christmas Club. My family had dozens of Christmas Clubs so we had lots of cheap oil lamps. I decided it would be fun to use them for atmosphere.
Once the lights went down, I lit the oil lamps. No one realized until it was over that the damn things put out so much smoke and soot. And it was during the summer when girls wore white tops. There were quite a few surprises and hustling to fix things when the lights went up. The ceiling is still stained with that soot….
We always knew when Daddy had had too much to drink. He would put on his Japanese records. He had been in Japan with the Army of Occupation at the end of World War II and brought home all these 78 rpm records of Japanese music. No one knew what the hell they were about. But my friends would sit and listen as long as he kept the drinks coming…
Over the years, we always gathered in the basement den for cocktails. The bar area was in the back hall. I had one friend who drank rather quickly. Right before my father died, he came over to visit and kept making repeat trips to the bar. My father suggested he just move his chair back there since he was obviously there for the drinks and not the company. That friend, to this day, has not gotten over the fact that my father’s last words to him were: “Why don’t you move your chair closer to the bar?”
I was in the basement again last week. After my Father died and we left home, my Mother stopped using it. She lived upstairs and left the basement alone. It’s musty and neglected now. It needs someone else to redo it again. It needs to be reclaimed by some other people who will use it as more than a musty storage area.
There’s just too much life in that basement to just let it be….