My childhood had a magical place
I visited every year.
It was dark and cold and wet,
But it was a “secret garden” to a boy and his siblings yearning to create.
This magical place was the basement of my Grandparents’ house.
They lived in St. Louis,
Midwesterners through and through,
With a Midwest mentality of honesty, kindness, and hard work.
Their basement was our playground.
Grandpa hung an eight-person swing from the rafters,
And we swung, swung, swung for hours.
Trying to reach the greatest heights we could in a place with low ceilings.
There was a small stage under the steps,
That Grandpa constructed with plywood,
And we wrote and performed outlandish plays,
For Grandma who always clapped and laughed.
There was a workshop in the far right corner,
Where Grandpa worked on crafts.
He made us a hat rack out of hockey sticks,
a Labyrinth box, and a Jacob’s ladder—wood blocks attached by a ribbon.
The smell of fresh sawdust dominated the space.
There was a glass shelf in the far left corner,
Knicknacks from their travels,
Criss-crossing the country in their blue van.
There was fish netting and shells, Spanish moss and trinkets,
And a large piece of cypress wood
That Grandma snuck out of the Everglades,
(that she tucked underneath the seats in the van
because Grandpa forbade her to take it)
And a lifetime of “I told you sos” when the wood brought with it,
Millions and millions and millions of bugs.
Oh, how I loved that place.
And wish, for one more moment, I could see it again.
To perform one last play with Grandma watching,
To talk with Grandpa while he was crafting,
To hear those laughs and feel that warmth,
One more time,
In that magical place.
About the Author
Brian Kissel is an Associate Professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His focus is writing instruction. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Hattie and three kiddos: Charlie, Ben, and Harriet.