The "Wine Cellar"

     I wanted to write about the fact, that in some way, my father and Father McNulty were like twins. That's what my kid is telling me.  Both Irish, Catholic, unemotional, judgmental.  Neither one was loving, even though they professed to be.  Both were angry men with few social skills.  Both had a huge amount of power over me and misused that power.  Neither one was truly my father, even though both demanded to be called "father".  Both of them hid behind their religion, and behind alcohol. 
     What this has to do with the wine cellar, I don't really know just yet.  My kid wants me to tell you about the wine cellar, so, that's just what I'll do.  Back in Linfield Pennsylvania, when I was a kid, we lived in a large farmhouse, built before the Revolutionary War.  Behind the house were three maple trees, over a hundred years old, too large to climb, although those were the trees I always wanted to climb.  They had trunks about 30 inches in diameter, deep ridged bark, the first branches more than 20 feet up.  Close to these trees, and adjacent to Brownback Road, hidden in the underbrush, was "The Wine Cellar".  Obviously built when the first part of the house was built, but separate from the house, and forgotten for a large number of years, hidden away, waiting for discovery.  Covering the outside of this tomb like structure (it reminds me of the story of the tomb that Jesus was in, where he rolled that huge boulder away from the entrance) was an almost impenetrable barrier of Osage Orange.  Now Osage Orange, if you're not familiar with it,  is the most lethal thorn bush around.  I don't mean lethal, like it is poisonous or something, but lethal, like a sharp knife could be.  Thorns two inches long, needle sharp, and woody strong.  Folklore attributes this plant to Jesus' crown of thorns.  This "wine cellar", that's what we called it, although it was, in fact, a root cellar, was built with expertly placed stone, to form a Quonset or arch shaped underground room, made entirely of stone.  Inside, hundred year old mustiness, the smell of dry leaves, which had found their way in over the years, left over spoiled apple smell, mold, and wet earth smell, like the garden, were prevalent.  The stones, perfectly fitted, were kind of white, like quartz or limestone.  I kept expecting to find stalactites, or stalagmites, but I never did of course.  In the very back of the "Wine Cellar", about 20 feet back, was a perfectly built stone wall, with a square opening 2ft by 2ft, halfway up the wall.  When I was most courageous, I would jump and shinny up until I had my belly on the ledge of that opening, and I would peer down a deep stonelined well, which reminded me of pictures I had seen in fairy tale books.  I could see the water at the bottom even though everytime I got the courage to look in, I expected to find monsters. 
     I remember this one time, my father spent a weekend cutting the Osage Orange back, and burning what he cut.  It grew right back, though, and he gave up, never trying to keep the entrance to the Wine Cellar clear again.  He abandoned it.  It didn't matter that it represented the artisanship and way of life of the past.  It didn't matter that out of the whole property in Linfield, the "Wine Cellar" had the most character of any structure.  It didn't matter that it was built to last forever.  It didn't matter that it had an aura of mystery and power.  He abandoned it.  I didn't.  I carry it, and what it represents to me, inside myself.  I keep pruning those thorns back, and I'll never stop like he did!  I'll keep pruning them back so I can keep going down in there, to see if I will find water, or monsters in that well.  And I'll find out why my kid keeps telling me that Father McNulty and my father were twins. 

© 1998 Ken Scully
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