Last updated: May 24. 2013 5:24PM - 1800 Views

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So, want to hear something romantic?


Once upon a time, there was a prince who loved a princess so much he “came in through the coal bin” to see her.


Sounds a bit sketchy, I know. Because what kind of castle has a coal bin, and what’s a coal bin anyway? (Once upon a time, boys and girls, to heat our homes … )


OK, so this particular boy and girl weren’t actual royalty, but any boy who’d belly through the black to convince the girl he loved that she could love him back had to have some princely blood in him. And his was a story of perseverance, for eventually he won his bride, and they lived long and prospered, not so much materially as in ways that mattered more.


Ah, yes, Grandma and Grandpop’s love story lives on, and I can’t help recalling it every time I pass by the painted-over old latch door on the foundation of my own home that surely once led to a coal bin. (Now it would get you only to my Christmas decorations.) Anyway, some would not care for the evidence of the way life once was and would sooner start from scratch, but I happen to savor enchanting details, and basements and attics are fertile sources.


On topic: Would you rather have a basement or an attic? How important is each in the real-estate scheme of things? These were questions folks posed on message boards after the record-setting tornado devastated Moore, Okla., earlier this week. Also: Why, in a world more in need than ever of safe zones, don’t we have more basements? Easy, if you live in the West: unyielding clay soil, low water tables, etc. Across the map, economics also factor in. Is it more cost-effective to dig down or add on? Or why even do either because don’t we all have too much stuff anyway?


I had plenty to ponder while spending most of this week redoing my own basement in the wake of damage done not by Mother Nature but an aging borough sewer system. As footage of twister destruction rolled, the initially overwhelming ripple effects of a small flood not caused by rain suddenly paled, and creating a new “wine cellar” seemed shameful. But it did loudly remind that almost nothing in this world is impervious. A combination of waterproof vinyl and tile with double grout seal for a new floor, topped with PVC molding? Swell, but the water — “black water,” perhaps — should it come again will, like a heart, want what it wants. So don’t even think about directing its course. Yet watch it closely because mold is an old monster reborn for a modern world.


So a walk-up attic is better? Not if you live in blood-curdling fear of bats as I do. An outdoor storage structure? Having lived next-door to my long-windowed elementary school as a child, I’m unsure. One wild afternoon storm left an image as ingrained as the shrieking voice of a classmate: “Snyders’ shed just fell down!”


I’ve helplessly watched actual pieces of my own house and my neighbors’ suddenly tumble — ridge vents and soffits and such, fixable — on merely erratic days and had only to marvel at how we all, truly, live just one false step away from a cliff.


Even if mortgage-free in ironclad quarters, as long as we wear these mortal coils, we will always borrow our time.


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