My grandfather was an avid hunter. He would pack up his guns and travel the world to find helpless creatures in need of a bullet to the head. As if it shooting them wasn’t bad enough, he would take their dead bodies to a taxidermist, have them stuffed and then bring the life size beasts home and display them in his basement.
My grandparent’s basement was dark and creepy. It contained two bedrooms and a bathroom to the right of the stairs that were never used and were always dark and filled with cobwebs. I was petrified on those rooms.
The main room was to the left of the stairs and had a television and a lazy boy chair for my grandfather. He spent a lot of his time at home down there watching sports on television. There was also a BIG creepy storage room that was my grandfather’s “workshop” and a pool table and bar to the far left of the stairs.
Every place you looked there was some GOD AWFUL reminder that my grandfather hunted. An elk head hanging above the fireplace, a stuffed mountain goat in the corner, a GIANT stuffed grizzly bear in another corner with his paw out ready to strike you, the full body of an elk, bear rugs on the floor and hanging on the walls (the bears glass eyes mocking you) and even some insanely large fish that my grandmother caught hung over the bar.
DID I MENTION THE GUN CABINET?
It was a family tradition at every gathering that my grandfather make all of us grandkids “kiddie cocktails,” otherwise known as Shirley Temples. All the grandkids, except me, would get excited and start jumping up and down, “Can we have kiddie cocktails, can we have kiddie cocktails?” I wanted to bitch slap each and every one of them.
PLEASE GOD NO KIDDIE COCKTAILS. It wasn’t because I didn’t love them, I did. I loved the beautiful color, the sweet flavor of the grenadine and my grandfather always added extra cherries.
What I didn’t love, is that for some screwed up reason, they left all the kiddie cocktail fixins in the BASEMENT. You know in a horror flick where you hear boom, boom, boom and the camera gets closer to the object with each boom? That’s how I remember the basement. Boom, boom, boom.
I was the oldest of the grandkids and guess whose mother freakin’ job it was to go down the dark ass stairs into that dark ass basement (boom, boom, boom) and get the cherries and grenadine? THAT’S RIGHT. MINE.
So while all the other grandkids bounced around with excitement, I was trying to keep down my pecan covered cheese ball appetizer as I prepared for the inevitable march (actually it was a full sprint that could give Usain Bolt a run for his money) down into the depths of death and darkness.
Each time, I would go through the same routine. I’d stand at the top of the stairs and hold onto the door handle. I took several deep breaths, visualized where each and every light switch was, then I flung open the door, hit the light switch at the top of the stairs, ran as fast as my skinny ass chicken legs would carry me down to the bottom, hit the next switch, ran over to the mountain goat while trying desperately not to look at it, reached behind him and flipped the switch. I jumped over the bear rug, rounded the pool table, dodged the giant grizzly paw, tried not to jab myself on the elk horns, flipped the switch at the bar, flung open the door to the fridge, grabbed the grenadine and cherries, and then did the same thing on the way back up to turn off the lights. Because if I left one on, they would make me come back down and turn it off. HORROR.
I was thinking about that basement yesterday and this thought popped into my head, THOSE JACKASSES DID IT ON PURPOSE.
They totally, TOTALLY, did it on prupose. I can just hear my aunt saying, “Mom, did you remember to put the cherries and grenadine downstairs before we got here?”
“Oh yes,” my grandmother would reply with a giggle.
“I’ve got five dollars that says she comes in two seconds under her last time,” my grandfather would say and then the bidding would begin.
My mom would wait until the first little kid started jumping up and down asking for a damn kiddie cocktail and then she would come and get me out of the closet where I was hiding. In her sweetest voice she would ask, “Would you be a love and run downstairs and get the grenadine and cherries?”
As I exited the closet and walked through the kitchen wide-eyed and shivering on my way to the stairs, they would all pretend to be busy helping set up dinner. But. As soon as I flipped the light switch at the top of the stairs, my Uncle Larry would hit the stop watch. There was silence as they waited with baited breath to see who was going to win all the dough at my expense.
As I hit the top landing, hair plastered to my face with sweat, gasping for breath and giggling like a crazy loon because I didn’t get eaten, they all resumed their assigned duties and secretly passed around the dollar bills to pay off their bets. My cousins shouted, “Kiddie cocktails please, kiddie cocktails please,” and I tried to figure out how in the hell I was going to get out of our next family gathering.