Monday, December 22, 2014

Stairs and Thoughts and Other Things

art courtesy of
Halfway Down

                                                            Halfway down the stairs
                                                            Is a stair
                                                            Where I sit.
                                                            There isn't any
                                                            Other stair
                                                            Quite like
                                                            I'm not at the bottom,
                                                            I'm not at the top;
                                                            So this is the stair
                                                            I always

                                                            Halfway up the stairs
                                                            Isn't up,
                                                            And it isn't down.
                                                            It isn't in the nursery,
                                                            It isn't in the town.
                                                            And all sorts of funny thoughts
                                                            Run round my head:
                                                            "It isn't really
                                                            It's somewhere else
                                                            Instead!" --A.A. Milne

My thoughts have turned to the stairs lately. I don't know if it's because this time of year tends to wax nostalgic or what. Memories take me to childhood traditions, family experiences, life changes and life blessings. Staircases can do that, I guess, since they play a key part in some of those memories. The curving staircase of my great-aunt's farmhouse where we had family reunions. The staircase of my youth at the bottom of which I'd sit and talk on the telephone as a teenager. The staircase even years before that at the top of which, when I was three years old, I attempted to throw a telephone book down--and bumped all the way down myself along with it. The staircase that has carried my children's footsteps up and down and now my grandkids pattering feet as well.

The steps to the upstairs of our house have seen many feet. Big feet, little feet. Old feet, young feet. Happy feet, stomping feet. Ours is an aged country house (though the country around it now isn't so much country anymore), built in 1935. Steep and narrow, the steps ascend at the back of the house behind the kitchen. Awkward placement, it would seem, but that's how old Mr. Meyer built it for his bride-to-be all those years ago. I know this because of the day when I was a young mother and a strange car pulled into the driveway. Out emerged an elderly man accompanied by a younger driver. In the backseat were two women, their respective wives it turned out. Upon answering the knock at the back door, I heard the younger man say, "I have someone here you might like to meet." At which the elderly gentleman said, "I am Leo Meyer, and I built this house."

What a treasure. Questions about my house that I'd pondered could be posed and answered. Hands that dug the basement, erected the walls--and fashioned the steps--gestured over things that had changed, things that remained the same. The sweet wife, now wizened but once a beaming bride, who toured what was once her home and who whispered, "If you find any money, it's mine."

A few years later, I learned that we were only the fifth owners of this house--and the two families that followed the Meyers before we came along each had a set of twins. Twins, in this house, times two! One couple with twin girls. The other with a girl and a boy. Imagine the antics up and down the steps in those years. Then came the couple that sold the house to us. The years march by just like the many times feet have marched up and down the stairs.

And I wonder, did any of the children in those years sit in the middle of the stairs and just 'be'--listening and imagining and pretending? How did the stairs help form their view of life and give them a boost up to their futures? Roald Dahl once commented, "I do have a blurred memory of sitting on the stairs and trying over and over again to tie one of my shoelaces..." What are the memories of the children who traipsed these stairs?

What are the memories of children who've traveled your stairs? What are your memories of stairs? And aren't words like steps--links to places, connections from past to present and future, a starting place and a help to a destination? Steps--and words--support, launch, propel, nurture, serve and lift. And on occasion give our imaginations a place to pause and be reignited.

Here's to that special stair that can do all those things!

May your holiday celebrations be blessed this year with much joy and peace--and with those quiet moments that help you reflect and recharge. Happy wishes to all.


  1. I wish I had a special stair, where I could sit and think.
    Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year to you Kenda.

  2. What lovely memories you have! There's a picture book you might enjoy called "The House on Maple Street" (can't remember the author just now). It's about all the people who lived in a particular spot over many years.

    Hope this Christmas season adds to your memory collection. Happy Holidays to all your readers!

  3. What a lovely post this was! And how evocative! I love the idea of stairs, although in our house, the only stairs go down to the basement, and when I was growing up, it was usually in apartments or rentals in one-story homes. But stairs appeal to my imagination, and your post revived that. I can picture so many stories involving staircases to hidden rooms, to attics, whatever. Have a great Christmas, and take time to sit on the stairs in your lovely old house. How nice that must have been to meet the builder.

  4. When I was moving into my first very old house as a bride, the builder happened by as well, and told me stories of living there with his bride. It's always nice to know a house has a happy history.

    As to stairs and being in the middle, aren't we always? Or it seems that way.

    This was such a wonderful post. I'm going to attemp to write one in the morning.

    Have a very wonderful Christmas.

  5. Thanks, Rachna, for your kind wishes. Here's to a great 2015 for you in all you're looking forward to!

    Peggy, once again you point me to something neat. Will be on the lookout for the House on Maple Street. Sounds right up my alley (ha!). Merry Christmas to you and wishes for a wonderful new year, too.

    Elizabeth, you've reminded me of the draw of attic stairs, wow. What stories they could tell. And what about the Nancy Drew title: The Mystery of the Hidden Staircase? We could explore all kinds of stairs, couldn't we? Thanks for stopping by. Wishes for a wonderful holiday season and new year to you!

    Cathy, I was happy to hear you had a similar experience with the builder of your once-upon-a-time house. It was a pretty special occurrence. Merry Christmas to you--I'm betting your house already smells like gingerbread and is beautifully decorated :-)