There comes a point in every story when the hero must descend to the underworld. For my siblings and me, that time was often soon after we’d arrived home on the school bus: Mom would give one of us a plastic pail and say, “Go down to The Pit and get some potatoes for supper.”
A small Elf-sized door at the end of our rumpus room led to The Pit, our root cellar, which was stocked with a year’s supply of potatoes, carrots, and onions. Back then there were dirt walls supported by wooden beams, and there was a capped circular passage on the sidewalk below the living room window where the produce was lowered down each fall. Mom’s garden was a full acre. We grew enough potatoes not only to last our family the full year, but also to supply many meals to extended family and friends who helped with the planting, hilling, rototilling, and weeding. I spent many less-than-idyllic hours and raised many blisters in Mom’s garden. In the fall we’d dig those rows and rows and rows of potatoes and gather them up in burlap sacks which were hauled to the side of the house and lowered through the passage into The Pit, where they were poured out, russets separate from red and Yukon gold, into the bins.
The Pit also served recreational purposes. The child-sized door that made you stoop to enter and the cave-like architecture made it a natural setting for fantasy. Sometimes we’d shimmy up or down the passage as a secret way of entering or leaving the house.