So you have a general idea that my aunt's house was no run-of-the-mill, sunshiny place. It held secrets that it didn't want little kids finding out about. There were two floors to the house (heck, there could have been three but we never ventured higher than the second floor.) And it sat on top of a hill that was too steep to play out in the yard.
You might be wondering what exactly did kids do there while visiting. Well, not much. There wasn't any toys to play with and we sort of blew the whole "trust" thing about our outside activities when we began picking up glass off the street. So we usually milled around, standing in the room as the adults talked (there wasn't that many pieces of furniture to sit on) as we spooked ourselves by the pictures that stared back at us and into our souls.
Then, one day, my brother asked if he could do something. He asked to do a chore. You truly realize a kid's boredom when they do such a thing.
Aunt Mary stared at him and suggested, "Why don't you sweep the floor?"
My brother went looking for the broom as I tagged along. We searched the kitchen and dining room, peeking into the large china cabinets and the dishes that must not have been touched since Hoover was president. No broom. We came back into the living room, shaking our heads and holding out empty hands.
"Maybe it's in the cellar?" My aunt mused.
Even my mother looked surprised to hear this new information. Aunt Mary stood up, her 5-foot hunched body shuffling toward the kitchen as her gray slippers scuffed cross the floor. Right by the kitchen entrance was a second door we NEVER noticed before. She unhooked the latch and flipped on the switch.
Hidden rooms. Can anything else in this world spark a child's imagination? A hidden room speaks of mystery and intrigue and unknown adventure.
Yet this was also a cellar, known as a basement by my generation. Cellar, basement, that below ground room that sends evil trembles of fear from clanking old furnaces grumbling every single time they flicked on.
I was never too keen on basements. We didn't have a basement at home, since we lived in a ranch-style house. But we DID have a furnace room. And while our furnace itself never frightened me with its noise, I had the shivers whenever the pump for our well water kicked on.
The problem was you never knew when it would turn on to send its banshee wail of EEEEEOOOOOO throughout the furnace room. Someone had to turn on the faucet, flush the toilet or use the outdoor hose somewhere else in/outside the house. Or it turned on automatically to fill up the pressure tank. You could walk by, going to put something up into the attic as you walked toward the creaky, cobwebby back stairs that had NO light, and the damn thing would just pop on, scaring the bejeezus out of you.
So, no fondness for furnace rooms, which I knew was simply an aboveground basement.
My brother and I ventured into Aunt Mary's cellar. This was a bright place and packed from wall-to-wall with stuff. Neat stuff any kid could lose themselves into with their imagination.
"What was that noise?" My brother said suddenly. I jumped in place, straining my ears for the noise. I hadn't heard anything, but that one phrase sent all the fun out of exploring. I was back in reality, remembering that despite this being a warm and bright room, it was still Aunt Mary's House! And we knew her house didn't like kids snooping.
We both hightailed it back upstairs. We claimed we couldn't find the broom.