Kids take your heart, the car, even the basement

October 04, 1997|By ROB KASPER

MY BASEMENT began a new phase of its life this week. I'm still recovering from the experience. It took the first step toward becoming a family recreation room.

Like most guys, I regard my basement as a sanctuary from domestic order, a place where you should be able to keep, in piles, stuff that other adults regard as junk.

Stuff like the mirror from the old convertible you sold 15 years ago. You keep the mirror because it'll come in handy when you again ride around town with the top down on your sports car and no chores on your horizon.

Stuff like that old door with jalousie shutters that you vowed to fix when you moved into the house, some 20 years ago. Somehow the door, and the promise to repair it, got stuck in a corner collecting dust.

And stuff like the packet of instructions telling you how to assemble a kid's toy bulldozer. A wave of nostalgia washed over me this week when I found the bulldozer instructions. I remembered how much enjoyment my sons once got as they pedaled that bulldozer around the backyard.

But this mushy moment quickly passed. I focused on the nasty facts that not only had these little boys become young men -- 16- and 12-year-olds -- but they had also become co-conspirators. They, in league with their mother, had formed a cabal and had taken over sections of my basement.

As a result, the basement had been cleaned and painted.PSoon it would be ready to receive a pool table. Once it was in place, family fun would follow. That is what the cabal members would have you believe.

It was hard to take a stand against family fun, but I tried. In supper-time debates I argued against acquiring the pool table and for keeping the basement in its chaotic, Dad-friendly state.

As part of their family-fun argument, the pro-pool-table forces said that putting the pool table in the basement would help keep our kids home at night. This, it was said, would make us happy.

I tried to turn this argument around. I pointed out that, as most parents know, a sure-fire step to enjoying an evening is having your kids spend the night at somebody else's house.

In a related point, the pro-pool-table forces said that turning the basement into a pool hall would make it a spot that both our kids and their friends would find appealing.

I tried to counter this point with a dose of common sense. Already, I said, having just two kids hanging out in my basement can drive me crazy. I don't think that upping the number of pre-teens and teen-agers in the house is going to increase domestic harmony.

My argument fell on deaf ears. It soon became apparent to me that my anti-pool-table position was being treated as being anti-family. I couldn't win an election on that platform. So I went along with the domestic majority, and have allowed reform to come to my basement.

My basement, once a comfortable, if dusty, repository of muddy shoes and half-completed repair projects, now has a fresh coat of paint and a new sense of purpose. It will become the pool room, the lair of our sons and their friends.

My stuff has been relegated to the far end of the room. There I will labor in daylight; the kids, as is their habit, will frolic at night.

I am trying to take the long view of this change. I tell myself this is what happens in a family.

As your kids get older, they take over your bathrooms, your cars and your basement.

I am also trying to take the Baltimore view. In keeping with the local tradition, I am transforming the ground floor of my house into a "club basement." However, in this case, it doesn't look as if I am going to be a member of the club. The members will be the kids and their pals.

A basement is by nature, amorphous. And I have my doubts that this basement will stay this course. The space that will become a pool room has previously served as a haunted house, as Grand Central Station for an electric train layout and as center court for a neighborhood pingpong tournament.

If this cycle continues, the basement will serve as a pool room for a time. But eventually the kids will move away from home, and the pool table will move on to somebody's else house. Then I will have my basement back. Maybe then I'll fix that door.

Pub Date: 10/04/97

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