Growing up, I thought my nana’s house was like a castle. From the outside, it looks huge. Or at least it did to my childish eyes. My grandparents were the only people I knew who had a formal living room that was dedicated to all of her antique dolls and furniture. All the really good antiques, the ones she didn’t want anyone to touch, were in that room. The rest of the house was also decorated with antiques, but they were the the every day common ones. Everything about her house screamed museum, which is why I found it so mesmerizing and palatial.
As an adult, I saw a very different side to the house. Yes, there were still all of the antiques, although most were more than a little worse for wear, and it still had the gigantic formal living room which even she rarely ventured into, but as a grown up, I realized how small it was. I think it might have been buying my own house, which looks small from the front, but when you walk in actually has 2000 square feet upstairs and an additional 1450 in the finished basement, that made me realize my nana’s house was kind of small.
Unlike mine, her house looks big from the outside. In fact, it looks like it is two stories. However, the second story is really just an unfinished attic that runs over 3/4 of the house (and is hot as hell AND has the most dangerous steps I’ve ever been on actually leading up to it). While the formal living room and the family room are pretty big, the rest of the rooms, including the master bedroom, are pretty small. And, there are only two bedrooms and one bathroom. It does sit on nearly an acre of land, but it’s land that is right in the middle of the small city she lives in, so suddenly the “estate” seemed pretty small.
In all my years visiting my nana, I knew she had a basement, which is another bit that technically makes the house seem larger than it really is. However, in all of my 43 years, I’d never actually been in it. It wasn’t until yesterday, when I went up to visit my mom and finalize some paperwork for my nana’s estate, that I ventured down there.
When my nana passed away at the end of April, my mother inherited her childhood home (my nana lived in the home for 78 of her 98 years). My mom, who lives in North Carolina, has no desire to become a landlord and definitely no desire to move back to her small hometown, so she got the house cleared out, cleaned up and put it on the market.
Even though she had professional cleaners come in and do a thorough cleaning specifically to get the house ready to go on the market, it never occurred to anyone to go down and clean up the basement. It wasn’t until the first person came to view the house and mentioned the cobwebs in the basement that the realtor asked us if we’d mind doing a little cleaning up in the basement. Wanting to help my mom, I said, “sure.”
How bad could it be?
OH MY GOODNESS! It was a nightmare. First off, since the house had been cleared out of basically everything, we had no cleaning tools. What we had were a broom and a duster type tool. What the basement had was more layers of cobwebs than I have seen anywhere, even in professional haunted houses. How this basement didn’t have either dead bodies or psycho killer lurking in it is beyond me.
As I took hold of the broom and started to sweep away the cobwebs, I saw hundreds of insects that looked positively prehistoric hanging above my head. At first I thought they were just terrifyingly large spiders. And some of them were. But I soon realized that most of them had far too many legs to be spiders. They were centipedes. Hundreds of centipedes.
While I truly believe most of them were long dead, I forced myself not to think about it and just keep batting away at the cobwebs and hoping nothing fell on my head. While I have no direct proof anything did drop down on me, my skin was crawling the entire time. A part of me wanted to do a good job. I want this house to sell. The other part of me just wanted to throw that broom and run screaming up the stairs.
I am not usually squeamish about bugs. I trap and release spiders in my house all the time. When it rains, we get ants and I kill them, usually with my fingers, and move on. But for the rest of the night, I was positive there were bugs on me. I felt like some sort of stereotypical drug fiend on a bad trip in some horrible B movie. I just felt them crawling on me. They weren’t, of course, but that did not make my skin less itchy or my brain forget all those carcasses.
Even today I keep getting flashes of those bugs and phantom itches on my skin. I told my mom that I better be forgiven those 27 hours of labor she likes to remind me about from time to time. Just stepping into that horrid basement was a labor of love. Helping to clean it up a bit…that was above and beyond the call of daughterly duty!