When I was twelve years old, I moved into a partially finished, unheated room in the basement. I moved into the room without my parent’s knowledge.
For years, I had been sharing an upstairs bedroom with my brother and step-brother, begging my parents to allow me to claim the damp, musty, frigid room in the basement as my own. Considering the lack of amenities, my parents sensibly refused me permission, so I finally took matters into my own hands.
During a weekend in early January, my parents took a trip to the Poconos and left me and my siblings in the care of my evil stepfather’s mother, a batty old lady whose bulb no longer burned very bright.
Sensing an opportunity, I took action. Over the course of the three days that my parents were away, I slowly moved my bed, bureau, desk, clothing and other personal belongings into the basement, assembling a bedroom of my own. My brothers, happy to get rid of me, were more than willing to help. It turned out that concealing the move from my step-grandmother was actually easier than I had suspected.
By the time my parents arrived home on Monday, I was living in the basement, using the hatchway as my primary egress from the house. It was cold, dim and dank, but it was my own.
Compared to some of the places where I would later live, it wasn't so bad.
Strangest of all, it took my parents three full days to realize that I had moved myself to the basement. It wasn’t until my mother noticed me coming up from the basement to use the bathroom that she asked what I was doing.
“I moved to the basement,” I explained as nonchalantly as possible.
“I moved to the basement while you and Dad were away,” I said.
A conversation ensued, but in the end, inertia won the day. My stuff was in the basement and I had already survived three long, cold January nights down there. In my parent’s mind, it was easier to just leave me down there than listen to my complain about moving back upstairs.
And so I remained.
It was cold. It was damp. And it was poorly lighted. But it was mine.