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: Earth Day awareness

It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.

Mama Madison: Parents should know and understand school codes of conduct

I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.

Helping your kids stick with music lessons

Some clever-clogs is playing Rachmaninoff on the piano at a party, and there it is again, that oft-heard adult lament of lost opportunity from a dejected onlooker: "I wish I could play. I wish my parents hadn't let me quit music lessons. I was just a kid -- how was I to know?" It's a reasonable complaint.

A summer camp quiz for parents

If you're checking out summer camps for your child, there are many issues -- some obvious, some less so -- to keep in mind. Here's a list to keep handy when you contact camps and camp directors, looking for the perfect spot for your kids to have fun, relax, and learn this summer.

Mama Madison: Lessons in dining out

I know, in the grand scheme of things, that my kid issues, when it comes to dining out, absolutely pale in comparison to those of parents whose kids have special needs. Many kids, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, are disturbed by changes in their routine, or anxious around noisy places. They may not be able tolerate waiting for a table or standing in line. So unfortunately, many of these families just avoid eating out at restaurants altogether.

Mama Madison: Natural vs. un-natural parenting

It's weird to admit this, especially in a city surrounded by as much outdoor beauty as Madison. But frankly, I'm just not that into nature. I'm more of an indoor kind of gal. Give me an afternoon at the Chazen or the Wisconsin Historical Museum over the Arboretum or Olbrich Gardens any day.

Mama Madison: Theatrical talent close to home

Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.

Mama Madison: Race to shame

I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.

Hancock Center addresses bullying through body movement

It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.

Mama Madison: Get in the picture

Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.

Mama Madison: Welcome to the Parenting Olympics

Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.

Mama Madison: Facebook's instant nostalgia fix

Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.

Mama Madison: The kindness question

Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.

Toddlers take to tablets

Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.

Mama Madison: Science or study hall?

This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.

Mama Madison: MTV provides a teachable moment

In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.

Mama Madison: Planning for the MLK holiday

In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.

Mama Madison: The long vacation

It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.

Mama Madison: Cheating 101 at Middleton High School

Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.

A mindful way to parent: Keep it in the moment, and take a deeeeep breath...

Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.

Emails from Isthmus Parents feature event highlights, story links, site updates, and occasional special offers from trusted sources. Name and email address are required. Thanks!