Mama Madison: Benefits of a wet basement

Forced cleanup prompts an encounter with great memories

We always get some water in the basement this time of year, but it's usually pretty manageable with a couple of bath towels and a fan. The spring of 2013 has been something else though, and I've spent far more time than I care to think about wrangling the sump pump and wet mops in a valiant effort to stay ahead of the flooding.

I'm half-seriously considering whether it might make sense to literally throw in the towel (they're all soaking wet anyway) and draft an application to whichever city agency would allow me to declare my lower level an indoor swimming pool.

But there is always a bright (even if there is no dry) side to even the most mildewed basement. And this year it was the chance for self-discovery while wading through all the crap that has accumulated down there over the years.

I guess I've always thought of myself as ruthlessly non-sentimental. I have worn it as a badge of pride that I don't feel compelled to frame each report card, file away greeting cards or download and print every family photo. The endless Certificates of Participation (my gosh, they participate in a lot) go straight up to a kid's room or into the recycling. And because of my ability to separate the Rembrandts from the rubbish when it comes to my kids' artwork, the front of my refrigerator is chronically controlled.

But, as I was going through the damp stuff in my basement, the lyrics of Barbara Streisand's "The Way We Were" kept playing over and over again in my head, especially that line about the "misty water-colored memories." And not just because of the water damage, but because, as it turns out, even the most passionate non-hoarder can have a nostalgia Achilles heel.

And as it turns out mine is costumes.

There, soaked on the basement floor lay the adorable orange beret replete with green stem that all three of my kids wore as Jacques-O-Lanterns on their first Halloweens. There was enough pink and lavender tulle to outfit tutus for the entire Bolshoi Ballet should they ever make a stop at the Overture Center. And dozens of black witches capes, devil's pitchforks and "Star Wars" masks. There were store bought "groovy hippie" costumes and homemade lion's manes and tails fashioned from faux fur. I even found the "Wolverine" claws my middle son wore to his three-year-old dress-up (or I should probably say dress-down) birthday party; I think he wore the plastic claws and little else that day.

And even though "let's pretend" is no longer a game my kids play regularly, I had trouble even thinking about throwing any of them out, no matter how tattered or water-stained they were. Some parents record the passage of time in carefully curated photographs or pencil marks denoting height increases on the basement wall. My time capsule, I guess, is the costume box.

The fake plastic fruit, a Playskool pirate ship, and what might very well be the world's largest collection of Rescue Heroes, those adorable first-responder dolls with inexplicably large feet, are now dried off, packed up and ready to be donated. Perhaps I'll figure out a way to get them to the Kids to Kids garage sale that will take place early next month at Elver Park.

But the dress-up stuff remains. "Memories," I guess, don't just "light the corners of my mind." At least for the time being, they will continue to live, albeit a little damp, in the corners of my basement.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Talking about race with Families for Justice

Like many parents, I look at the wide world around my kids and do my best to prepare them for life. We talk about working hard, being kind and responsible, Internet safety, stranger danger, and the (gulp) birds and the bees. But what about a topic such as race?

Mama Madison: Checking it twice

If you're like me, looking around your house in the weeks before Christmas will probably have you convinced that the last thing your kids need to find underneath the tree is a pile of new toys.

Mama Madison: Managing holiday lists

I spend a lot of time talking to my kids about how lucky we are to have what we have. Though our house is tiny and our van is unequipped with automatic doors, we have all we could ever need, and a lot of what we want.

Girls on the Run of Dane County marks a decade of changing young lives

On the evening of Nov. 6, a throng of people gathered at Monona Terrace. They were there to attend an impressive anniversary shindig, but the real buzz of excitement centered on the event's guest of honor.

Mama Madison: Mom dates are hard

You may call them "play dates," but I like the term "mom dates," especially since my kids are still too young to really care that there's another small person to squabble over toys with.

Mama Madison: No judgments with No Excuse Mom

If there is an excuse for not working out and eating healthy, I have used it: I don't have time. I'm too tired. I'll start tomorrow. I'm no good at this, I give up. I don't know where to start. Yes, I have used all of these and more.

Mama Madison: Introducing kids to your CSA box

At almost a year old, my kids are in the blissful stage of life where they'll eat nearly anything that I put in front of them (at least as long as it doesn't require much in the way of molar action).

Mama Madison: Changing tables, changing times

My family recently went through something that we have not experienced in over eight years. We have become a household that no longer harbors a crib or a changing table.

From museum to school with MMoCA

"There really is no wrong way to do it." That's how Madeline, age 13, describes creating artwork. She and her classmates at Prairie View Middle School in Sun Prairie are honing their artistic skills by participating in the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art's Art on Tour program.

Mama Madison: Coping with toddlers in a Wisconsin winter

I'm having trouble enjoying the season, because I can't keep myself from thinking about the miserable weather that's sure to be following close on the heels of the crisp, pleasant fall we've been having. I am not at all emotionally prepared to be the parent of two toddlers during a Wisconsin winter.

Mama Madison: Melissa Wardy pushes positive messages

I've always been a supporter of companies that empower women and girls, and when the creator of such a company is a fellow Wisconsinite, I get even more excited. When Melissa Wardy of Janesville got fed up with stereotypes found in clothing for girls, she started her own company.

Mama Madison: Three cheers for reading at the Wisconsin Book Festival

Do you have a little reader or an aspiring teenaged writer in your house? If so, you may want to venture to the Wisconsin Book Festival this weekend, to whet their appetite for wonderful words as well as your own.

Mama Madison: What's in a name?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I had two names picked out. Upon her arrival we had not yet come to a conclusion on what that name would be. Everyone told us that when we saw her we would just know. We didn't.

Mama Madison: Eugster's is more than just a visit to the farm

At age 10 months, my kids have seen the zoo a lot already. I was a zoology major in college, and I have something of a zoo addiction still, so the twins (and their dad) are more or less condemned to a future rife with zoo visits.

Help for home-schoolers at the Madison Mentor Center

Home-schooling can be a lonely proposition. Even as a college professor, Juliana Hunt remembers struggling to find support to home-school her now-grown daughter. "I was always hoping to find like-minded people who were in the same position as me," she says. "I know that children learn best through a give-and-take, question-and-answer process of teaching and learning, but where do you find mentors who can make that happen?"

Mama Madison: Yummy Sprout is a wonderful resource

After sleep patterns, I think the next biggest parenting concern I have and hear about revolves around the topic of food. How can I make sure my kids are eating enough vegetables? Did I pack them a lunch that is healthy enough? What can I feed them after school that doesn't come from a box? How many gripes am I going to get about the dinner I'm about to prepare?

Mama Madison: Tips and tricks for baby air travel

As far as places to embark on Baby's First Air Travel go, Dane County Regional Airport is a pretty sound choice, especially at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. My biggest fear was that my nine-month-old son would start screaming in the airport; my second biggest fear was that my son would start screaming and some of my former Epic colleagues would be around to hear it.

Mama Madison: Apple-picking time

The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.

Mama Madison: Baby feeding recommendations

I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?

Heartland Farm Sanctuary helps animals that help kids

Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.