The Basement

Teddy is scared of the basement. I totally get this. I was always scared of the basement. It’s where spiders and monsters and murderers lurk. The basements of my youth were unfinished spaces. In one house, Dad put up a makeshift curtain divider to separate his workbench and tools and things-in-storage from the area we were allowed to rollerskate and jump on old mattresses, chalk foursquare courts onto the concrete floor and make forts with moving boxes. Occasionally one of us would be sent to retrieve an item from Beyond the Curtain: a space that wasn’t illuminated by the light switch, but instead required wild grasping in the dark until a grateful hand met with the pull cord of a naked bulb. That moment before contact with the blessed string was probably the height of scary for me as a kid. But now Teddy, my funny, imaginative little 8 year old, won’t go down to the basement alone because… well… maybe we should sweep it for bombs first.

I think we all feel like we just finished explaining Newtown to our children. And now, there’s another bad guy… and he’s still out there… and he knows how to make and hide bombs. (And if the good guys can’t find him, maybe he’s hiding in the basement.) Our church, our schools, and everyone on Facebook tell us to look for the helpers. Brodie and Teddy saw their dad suit up in scrubs, throw on a white coat, drive closer to bombs, and enter hospitals armed with guns (to keep the bad guys out, or keep them in?). They might be proud that Daddy is a “helper,” but more than usual, they want to know when he’s coming home.

“So this is probably the second worst day of my life?” Teddy wondered at dinner on Monday night. Because “that time the guy killed all of those kids was the worst.” This was followed by a discussion of how 9/11 would trump even these, but they weren’t born yet. Jesus. When I was 8, I’m sure I couldn’t name a single murderous event that didn’t involve a fictitious, deranged goalie, much less three acts of belief-shaking violence. Those things lurking Beyond the Curtain of my youth were unnamable, fantasy, and just on the cusp of exhilarating (if it weren’t for the more tangible and real threat of spiders). The fears of my children are spun from things on TV in the afternoon.

Later, there was this: “Should we have a moment of silence?” asked my 9 year old. Brodie, whether he knows it or not, looks for answers (or solace) in Prayer. Reluctant to sob in front of my little guys, I deflected that with “who wants ice cream?” I’m not ready for a Moment of Silence. Here’s the loneliest thought: there will be no answers to the why Why WHY of it all in even the most momentous of silences. And until they catch the bad guys, I’m still too distracted and scared to pray to anyone… but what many of us feel (regardless of your brand of spiritual cracker) is that we’re praying for each other.

Here in Boston, familiar sights are outlined with yellow tape and there’s nothing else but this on TV. Here in the Lee household, Daddy is a helper but there might be bombs in the basement. We’re all grasping for that cord in the dark, and finding… each other. Although we’re sad, there is great love amongst us. (See: countless acts of kindness, frantic Facebook queries and assurances, The Yankees, and Chicago.) We’re not defeated! But right now, here in Boston (here at the Lee’s), we have no explanations to alleviate the basement fears of an 8 year old boy. An 8 year old boy. An 8 year old boy.

We are all Bostonians right now.

We are all Bostonians right now.

Thinking of Martin… always thinking of Martin.

8 responses

  1. The “Frank, Michelle, Steve” message stream on my phone since Monday has read something like “Suspicious package in MGH parking garage – be careful.”…”45 Francis closed due to suspicious vehicle – be careful.”…”Why is the SWAT team still here??”…Teddy is not alone. The helpers have to turn the lights on for each other.

  2. It sounds like you are the one exploiting a tragedy to present your “deeper thoughts” about a growing social injustice, etc. Just to get the facts straight: Long distance running is as old as humanity and a uniquely human activity (see the book Born To Run on this point). And Modern marathon running goes back to the late 19th century, quite a bit earlier than the dividing and controlling of the world “as never before” to which you allude. Given those facts, your implied suggestion that marathon running is emblematic of the recent development of wealth disparity makes no sense. If you are somehow implying that marathon running is a political act subject to violent retribution, that is patently offensive. Those who run the Boston Marathon are elite runners, not the elite who run the world. As for your comment that “In such situation the extremism is self fueled/growing,” it is hard to understand what you mean. Again you seem to conflate the elitism of being a great runner with the elitism of those who have disproportionate power, wealth and influence.

    Yes, WordPress bloggers are allowed to discuss “such sensitive social issues.” I do it all the time. But you need to get your facts straight before you inject them into a blog written by someone who treated the victims of 9/11 and whose husband treated the victims of 9/11 and is now treating the victims of this latest violent act. And you ought to have the decency to do it in a blog that invites an attack from the far left (there are plenty out there), and not do it in a blog piece that is ultimately a communal grieving of the loss of innocence in those too, too young to lose it.

    • Thanks, Tony. I thought I deleted the comment right away! Now I’ll have to “approve” comments after “moderation.” Blah. But I wanted to keep your comments here, which, if you’re following along, are in response to a reader accusing me of exploiting the tragedy. Blech. But he’s not from these parts, so doesn’t understand that we’re grieving.

      • I don’t think you have to moderate comments, Britt.

        I didn’t see the comment, but I saw the defense. I doubt whatever was in his post wasn’t going to be completely thwarted by the anonymous response above. I think it’s best to just allow people to say what they want to say without moderation. As you can see, you didn’t even have to respond to it yourself, someone immediately came to your defense faster than you could delete the comment.

        A quote comes to mind:
        “The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose, it will defend itself.” – St. Augustine

        I love your writing, there are some very vivid descriptions. When you talked about retrieving an item beyond the curtain, my imagination turned on and stayed vivid through the whole post.

        Hopefully you don’t have an attic, that’s where murderous spider monsters generally take residence. Like this guy:

  3. Pingback: Berlin Can Take It… by Steve Safran | Blooms and Bubbles

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