Saving everything becomes more of a problem once you have more to save. You would think treasures would be found hidden in the depths of their house, but, for the most part, the things we discovered buried in the recesses of my grandparent's house were strange, frightening, or downright gross.
Don't get me wrong. I loved my grandparents. I loved to visit them. I loved their weird half bird half dog creature, Tina. She will appear in later posts. Their backyard was magical, filled with raspberries, tall grass, sour apples, and mysterious dark corners.
As I've gotten older, I do begrudge them a little that their hording blocked off access to the top floor. I barely knew it existed. Yes, I saw the windows and I have a dim memory of stairs, but those stairs dissappeared. I imagined there must have been some secret passageway to that area that I stumbled upon when I was younger. The upstairs lived in my mind as the domain of elves and gnomes, where unicorns fought dragons on lush fields of grass. The dusty old rooms I found later on as we pulled the stacks of boxes down nearly made me cry.
I had thought the door next to the bathroom was a closet, filled with stacks of paper plates, old raincoats, twisted wire hangers, broken toys. The stairs so blanketed with the ever so important objects that even the memory of them fell away to myth. Now, I think it would have been nice to use guest bedrooms and extra bathroom that lay above, rather than sleep in the freezing front room on the floor or curled up in the warmer TV room.
I remember the appalled looks on my grandparents faces when I tried to throw things away that they deemed worthy of safeguarding. I remember the weevils in the cereal boxes that came from the basement, sporting pictures of athletes I had never heard of. I remember the ramen that must have come from Ancient Mesopotamia with flavors that no one remembers existing...like mushroom and locust (the locust may be an exaggeration).
If the upstairs lived as some heavenly elf filled kingdom of light in my mind, the basement embodied the opposite. The darkness in the basement felt alive, tangible. I would hop the last steps on the way down and sprint up them in terror. Unfinished and uncarpeted, those steps breathed malice from the void beneath them. I felt certain that something lived there and would pull the unsuspecting boy or girl in to devour them. This may have been something my older brothers said to me or just my overactive imagination. I do not recall.
At the bottom of the stairs sat an unfinished basement full of stacks of this and that. We explored it during the day and avoided it at night. The basement also held the fruit room, a dank, dark, windowless room full of fifty years of food storage. One lone light bulb illuminated the depths, but you had to enter the room in the dark, walking through cobwebs to get to the light. As kids we would dare each other to stay in the room alone and in the dark for as long as possible. I don't think I ever made it past five or six seconds.
I picked up another jar and looked at it for several minutes, trying to deduce what the grey blobs inside might have been.
I picked up another and, for the life of me, I could not figure them out. I stared and stared at the swollen bubbles inside. Brown bulbous things floating in brackish liquid. What had bubbles slightly smaller than marbles? What could this possibly be? I nearly dropped the bottle when I put it together.
My brother and I carefully pulled each bottle and gingerly placed it in the dumpster. After about an hour of moving bottles of unknown substance, we started to care less how we placed them, throwing the bottles in and watching them shatter and splatter everywhere. Goo fell on our clothes and our masks, but we were too numb and too beyond revolted to care. We morfed into robots. Enter fruit room, pick up disgusting thing, cary disgusting thing out, throw it in dumpster, watch as it splatters us in filth, go back to fruit room, repeat process. Grey green liquid leaked out of the bottom of the dumpster and crawled off to the garage where it could breed nightmares or whatever ancient fruit decay breeds. We didn't care.
Another surprise waited for us in the fruit room, a chest freezer full of meat. The freezer had lost power sometime in the last four decades. Do you know what happens to meat in a sealed container for forty years? No...me neither. I don't want to know, but I imagine it turns into some kind of meat pudding and then grows bacteria. The bacteria then continues to grow unaffected by the outside world until they evolve into super intelligent and intensely foul smelling single celled beings. They build their tiny rocket ships, wage wars, live, love, and die in the microcosm of the meat goo in the chest freezer as the rest of the world goes by unaware.
We pulled the freezer out and started to push it up the stairs out of the basement, somewhat happy in our productivity.
We took a break and cleaned up the glass as my poor brother dry heaved away in a corner. We then used an entire roll of duct tape on the freezer lid and finished the job.
Now, I tend to agree with him that he got the worst of it. I spent hours in filth and he spent only a couple seconds with his head in the meat freezer, but imagine what that might have been like as the intelligent bacteria launched their biological weapons at the intruder and then marched to war through his nostrils.
I'm not sure what the meat bacteria may have done to him. I've watched and waited. He survived, thankfully. He has yet to develop super powers though...unless the ability to clutter, blow a straw wrapper at me every time we eat out, or screech like a banshee when he hiccups are his lame super powers. I also keep constant vigil in case the bacteria took over his brain and are now intent on claiming the planet as their own. So far, world domination does not seem to be on the menu...but I keep my eyes open.