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Treasure Hunting

Basements and attics are treasure troves. I know. I’ve visited both, and they never disappoint. Whether it’s my own or someone else’s, a basement or attic will always yield some sort of nostalgic or fantastic discovery, or rediscovery.

You may be thinking: Seriously? Basements and attics are creepy! Granted, when I was little, I would not dare go into my basement because, obviously, I would not return alive.

Let me assuage your skepticism.

These dark and dusty spaces are unique reservoirs that people so often overlook. For me, they offer insight into my own past as well as the history of my family, and allow me to recall memories I might not otherwise. Additionally, it is simply fun to make discoveries, intentional or not.



My favorite basement was my grandfather’s, who lived in a house in the Blue Ridge Mountains. As a child, the two-hour journey to the Farm, as we called it, always resulted in pure joy and adventure. We maneuvered cow patties in oceanic fields, picked wildflowers, hiked mountain ridges, roasted marshmallows in the firepit, and braved the cobweb-covered, musty basement. After my grandfather’s death, my brother and I became the excavators of the basement. The treasures we found included old Canadian coins in velvet-lined cases; medals, buttons, and patches from my grandfather’s days in the Air Force; old, handwritten-in-cursive letters; a gold chain with a small, delicate cross hanging from it; an empty journal with thick, wooden covers; faded photographs; a carved marble stamp from China; a single, gold, clip-on earring shaped like a shell; and recently, my grandfather’s Leica rangefinder camera and countless color negatives of his time serving in the Air Force while in Germany in the 1950s.

Imagine entering this daunting cavern, descending creaking wooden stairs, only to have confidence bolstered and delight rekindled at these incredible finds. It is as much about stumbling across such interesting objects as actually having them.

Basements reveal what has been lost, hidden, forgotten. I love to uncover facts and stories I never knew about my family, or to concoct stories of my own based on what I find. It’s as if I’m delving into the mind of a person, the basement being their memory drive. It’s quite an intimate process. Sifting through cabinets and boxes and shelves, I always find something new and interesting.



My favorite attic is the one from my old house, nestled behind a secret bookcase, like in Scooby-Doo. One needs only to push it forward, duck their head, and step inside. My family never really stored things in our basement, but rather in our attic. All my old yearbooks, journals, novels, stuffed animals, and trinkets have a home there, even if their address is lost to me. That is what makes braving such an expansive catalog of information so intimidating--there is endless content, but no directory. While daunting, however, that is also the fun and beauty of it. I never know exactly what I’m going to find. Or, whenever I need something specific, an inevitable expedition ensues, and I invariably stumble across something I was not expecting or which I had forgotten about. This of course leads to the extraction of objects and taking them to my room to examine. Old poems, sketches, and games capture my attention, often distracting me from my original purpose.

I encourage everyone, whenever the chance next arises, to delve into the depths of a basement or the recesses of an attic. You never know what exactly you’ll find. Let the treasure hunting commence.


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