I’ve never been fond of basements, though I’m not sure why. The house in Louisville KY where we moved the year I turned nine, had a new basement because the house was new. When I turned 12 I began saving money to go away to dance camp, so I painted the walls peach and offered dance classes to the neighborhood girls. Dad put up a ballet bar on one wall, though we had to caution my students not to hang on it, the metal supports had trouble staying in the concrete.
Looking back, the cement floor must have been especially hard on our feet, but when I see the super 8 film Dad took of our recitals held on the cement driveway in front of the garage, we clearly made due with what we had.
Years later, when my husband and I found a beautiful old fixer upper house in Detroit, I told him, “We can buy it as long as I never have to go down to that basement. I’m sure it’s haunted.” Remodeling the kitchen we put the washer and dryer connections there so I wouldn’t have to. I remember a steel beam in the center of the basement, which it turned out was a most unusual type of construction in 1926 when the house was built. It may have had something to do with the fact that it was still structurally sound in the late 60s. Even though I had said I didn’t want to ever go down there, I have vivid memories of roller-skating around that steel pole with my children. It turned out to be a great place to play when it was raining outside.
For the twenty years we lived in Texas, we had no basement, and neither did anyone else. Now in Pittsburgh, the lowest level of our townhouse is a garage in the front and my dance studio in the back. We’re still dancing on a cement foundation but this time, there’s a bamboo floor floated on cork, to cushion our feet.