Yesterday I revisited the past, accompanied by friendly ghosts and shadows. I have avoided going downstairs unless absolutely necessary for six years. Dust lay thick and there were cobwebs at the windows. Blackberries have overgrown the door to the backyard from the walkout basement, making it impassable. It was easy to forget there even was a downstairs in this house.
It's a big room, over six hundred square feet, and it was made for parties. A full-size, fully stocked oak bar that would grace any commercial watering hole. A long wall of shelving holds over three thousand books and a shorter span of floor-to-ceiling shelves for literally thousands of LP records. Cabinets full of games and puzzles. Easy chairs placed to watch the television over the bar. Three couches all make into beds for tired revelers. There are record, tape, and CD players. Short-pile carpet was laid for dancing. And there is a brick-faced gas fireplace. It is a room designed for comfort and fun.
We used to throw parties that would last for days. Any excuse for a gathering was a good one, and everyone would congregate downstairs. Music and laughter filled the air. Poker dice slammed on the bar. Ladies in long gowns and gents in tuxes celebrated the new millennium and listened to Kenny G's Auld Lang Syne at midnight. Nearly two hundred guests attended Deb and Craig's wedding and reception. Good times, happy memories. The last time the room was really used was for Steve's Going-Away Party six years ago.
When I'd decided to put a Christmas tree downstairs again this year and Dolly and I went down to decorate, it broke the spell. The man came yesterday to replace the thermocouple in the fireplace. As long as I had to be down there, I started cleaning up. Memories swirled around me with everything I touched, but they no longer held pain. An old photo of my mother that should have been in an album was sitting on a shelf; why? The picture of Steve behind the bar showed his welcoming grin, and his best friend's reflection still showed behind him. If the guy had taken any longer, I think I might have put on the AC/DC album that was Steve's favorite.
In the late afternoon with all the lights on and the fireplace glowing, the furniture polished and the cobwebs banished, the room is just a room again, welcoming and warm. The ghosts have been laid to rest. It's time.