Spaced out

Yale Hollander is a dad, husband, legal professional and writer whose works have appeared in a number of local and national publications. He is currently a trustee of the St. Louis Jewish Light, however the opinions and viewpoints he presents in this blog are strictly his. Follow him on Twitter @yalehollander.

By Yale Hollander

My wife and I have lived in our house for nearly 17 and a half years and, if memory serves, we’ve been promising to clean out its basement for nearly 16 and a half years.

When we bought the place, we saw the unfinished lower level of our home as a blank canvas, a vast land of opportunity primed for development. We had been married just over a year, practically newlyweds, and we had dreams, visions and ideas to grow on. The basement was about the future. We were busy enjoying the present.

The main floor of our new, three-bedroom home was more than sufficient to suit our living needs. I conceded the master bedroom to my wife’s decorating whims as I took on the guest bedroom as my “study.” The dark wood futon and matching end table/coffee table set from my bachelor apartment found an agreeable setting within the walls I had painted a deep, “steakhouse” yellow. It was a retreat where I could unwind and enjoy my back catalogue of Esquire magazines, or watch whatever sporting event I could pick up with the rabbit ear antennae on my 13” portable television.

We had been in the house about a year when my wife’s brother found himself in need of some furniture for his new apartment. It only made sense to let him have my old furniture. We were, after all, home-owning adults and should have a proper bed in our guest bedroom. Out went the dark wood; in came the proper bed.

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A few months later, I came home from a long day at the office to discover my wife and one of her close friends in the guest bedroom engaged in a shocking act of betrayal. I watched helplessly as they applied a floral border to the once-golden walls that had since been painted a weak shade of light blue. Gone was my retreat. But at least I had the paneled family room as a fairly masculine leisure zone.

Until a couple of summers later when my beloved paneling was taken away.

And then a child showed up. 

And then another – both girls. The suffocation had begun.

Fast forward to the present day where my “Dad space” consists of a small corner of the living room that isn’t otherwise occupied by the heirloom “do not touch” furniture we inherited from my wife’s maternal grandmother and my 9-year-old daughter’s expanding empire of Lego buildings that is larger than some incorporated municipalities of St. Louis County.

Meanwhile, one floor below all of this, that vast land of opportunity had turned into something straight out of “Storage Wars.” Not only did our home purchase afford our gleeful parents the opportunity to rid their own collective basements of all of the stuff my wife and I had accumulated in our first couple of decades of life, but we also added to the clutter. Every passing year saw new additions to the subterranean collection of outdated clothing, electronics and other articles that seemed silly to discard when we had all that unused downstairs space. 

Sure, there had been talk in the past of straightening things up, but we usually took one look at the array of stuff that only Oscar the Grouch could possibly love, took a look at each other and vowed, “another day.”

Another day came last week. We have completed Phase One of what will likely be a 26- or 27-phase operation to rid the basement of junk. I took an admiring look at a sizeable swath of unoccupied space and was struck by hope and inspiration – new territory for me to colonize; a bigger, more secluded Dad space!

Granted, this space will be considerably more spartan and industrial than the well-appointed, main-floor man cave of my newlywed days, but there is exactly zero percent chance anybody is going to come at it with wimpy colored paint and floral applique’s either. I’ll accept it. And I’ll like it.