Friday, April 29, 2011

Greensburg: Times Past

While looking for spring decorations a few weeks ago in our basement the sunrise fell into our ground level window flooding the cement gray walls with faded oranges and golds. Had the one ground window in this storage room been clean the colors might have danced and glowed, even below ground. Standing there absorbing the rays, my mind flashed back to a little basement apartment in Greensburg, Kansas, where Katy and I lived for a year of our lives. We had only one East window that poured daylight into the bedroom which I had painted lemon lime green. Guess I was hoping to bloom while I lived there.

Little Katy in the handmade tub in our basement apt. on Nebraska st.
The two South windows also gave us nurturing sunshine in the winter with one window in the kitchen and the other in the living room. Our one West window gave us a warm glow much like a pretend fireplace in the winter. Out of the three North windows we noticed green grasses or brown tumbleweeds that had reached a dead end. Sometimes we looked out of the North window of Katy's room and imagined our dog, Snow King Kodiak, who had to be fenced in this yard. Our little basement home on Nebraska street was unique. In the beginning, the basement was built as home covered only with a roof. The farmer/father who dug out and constructed the basement home had four little girls to raise, or so the story went. To accommodate his wife's needs or that of the little girls he constructed a hand made tile tub big enough for four children. The tile was a terra cotta pink with a torquoise trim. It was a rather rugged tub, but one that Katy and I enjoyed sharing. As the family made more money, he was finally able to build a home on top. I don't know who he was or where they may have moved to, but I was charmed by his construction savvy. He installed wall to wall closets and drawers in the one long bedroom that must have held four little beds. We had storage under the stairwell, and a wall length closet in the main bedroom. The kitchen was small but functional. I guessed his wife might not have enjoyed cooking either.

For a small town we moved around alot. Year one we lived in a trailer on Iowa street where our cat, Frisky, survived twenty minutes in the dryer. Year two we had the opportunity to move into Kathryn Waters' home on Nebraska street, same longitude just one street south. Our third year we moved to the basement of Larkin's home, which sat right in between the two previous homes. Ironically, we loved our basement home best of all because it was naturally warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The sun was just enough to let us know there was light for all, and besides we were rarely there during the day.

Luckily for us, we never moved far from Cecil Scrones' garden. So every summer we had fresh tomatoes, squash, peppers, and onions. I learned a lot about fresh garden cooking from Cecil and Arlene. Now our Kansas soil grows delicious tomatoes, but I don't begin to till a garden plot like Cecil. Hats off to you Cecil, and to all of those other wonderful folks who helped to raise Katy and me while we lived in Greensburg, Kansas.

That summer after the devasting tornado my husband and I drove around Greensburg. Like so many other stories I struggled to find my three homes and school where I taught. My landmarks were gone. When we finally found our two streets my little basement was covered over with dirt, no homes, no garden, but a few trees remained. I've often wonder if the backyard daisies in Kathryn's home grew back. What must that look like to see those spring iris, peonies, lilac bushes, and daisies grow where no homes stand? I miss those days when a bicycle ride around town was just that, where a hand dug well brought tourists to town, where a giant swimming pool brought families together for hot summer days, where a drugstore still administered ice cream sundies, cherry lime squeezes, cherry chocolate Dr. Pepper, and smiling faces.

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