Julia Spitz: My basement is so sick it's ill

Julia Spitz

In the eyes of the 14-and-younger crowd, this is a very good thing. To the ears of someone who hasn't been 14-and-younger in decades, it's a headache I feared no aspirin would cure.

For the neighbors, I'm hoping it's better than skateboards on the street at 10 a.m. For the basement, it's just another phase of life, no better or worse than the rest.

Its unfinished status has led to many roles for the basement. It's been an art museum for an Indianhead mural painted by the former owner, and initials of former crushes left by my older children. It's been a music studio with a drum set that bore the brunt of teenaged frustration and an electric guitar apparently capable of only three endlessly repeated notes; a dumping ground for appliances beyond repair and children's belongings left behind in the haste to get out on one's own.

It was going to be teen-boy hangout one summer, but the older boy changed his mind when he saw how much work was involved. Which meant it turned into a teen-girl hangout that summer.

It's been the source of heat and clean clothes for generations, and a frequent source of "that can't be good" sputtering sounds that lead to emergency calls to the plumber.

For a very brief moment, it was an exercise room with a rowing machine. For a year or so, it was home to an air-hockey table that never worked quite right, but what did I expect for $39.99?

Last month it became a skate park, but what did I expect when my husband was left in charge for a few hours on a rainy Saturday?

"At least you know where he is," said the man who should have known how I'd react to that statement ... after listening to eight hours of wheels rolling back and forth over concrete ... while hip-hop music pounded up through the floor.

"Ask if you can stay until 6," the boy told one of the neighbors who was on the phone with his parents. "Tell them my mom said it was fine."

"Tell them 5:45," I told the neighbor's son.

I was so happy I almost cried when everyone went outside at precisely 5:45, and the house became beautifully, blissfully quiet.

But, in that quiet moment, I realized the basement was right. It's a phase to be appreciated, a fleeting moment I'll miss when it's gone.

In that quiet moment, I was able to savor the beauty of what had happened that weekend, and on other weekends and after-school afternoons in recent months.

Despite all the handwringing about kids not knowing how to do anything other than play video games and text inappropriate pictures of themselves, sometimes, if left to their own devices, they turn into kids.

They use their imaginations and build stuff. They get enthusiastic about the project that they decided to build.

The autumn fort had to be dismantled because they didn't check the property lines before they started construction, but the winter sled/snowboard chute and snow fort had a long and relatively accident-free lifespan. Springtime brought fishing and Whiffle ball, basketball and skateboarding. When a day of rain made all of those less than appealing, Easter weekend brought a skatepark to the basement.

My adult eyes saw no usable space down there, just the potential for injuries. The boy saw the hope of something sick. So sick it would be ill. And, in between hauling out junk, came words my limited adult vocabulary understood.

It would be cool to have a fun house for a change.

I'm no Kool-Aid mom, the one whose home every kid wants to be at, like in the old TV commercials for the summer drink. I'm the mom who tells kids to go home early. And yells. A lot. For no apparent reason. Plus gives them the evil eye, just for the heck of it.

But I can see the value in having the boy want to invite friends over. As my husband said, right before I made a face and stuck out my tongue at him, at least we knew where he was.

The thing is, there's more to it than just knowing where the boy is. With today's technology, I could track him with a GPS device, if I wanted. What's important is the boy actually wanting to hang out at home.

Even if it's a fleeting moment, like Emily's basement hangout phase, that's worth a few hours of music that makes every filling in my mouth hurt, and having my head pound a little harder with each attempt to Ollie and grind.

They wore their helmets, which is a good idea when you're in our basement, even if you're not on a skateboard.

And when the day was over, I didn't feel ill after all.

MetroWest Daily News writer Julia Spitz can be reached at 508-626-3968 or jspitz@cnc.com. Check metrowestdailynews.com or milforddailynews.com for the Spitz Bits blog.