Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Step Right Up!

My steep and creepy basement stairs

Stairs make me very nervous. No matter how many, no matter how steep, they all bother me. A lot.

It began with a significant fall I took down my Grandma Berrigan’s basement steps when I was about four. This is one of my earliest memories: tumbling down down down to a hard linoleum floor. I was staying the week at her house, and she had ordered some Sobee for me. Sobee was the disgusting precursor of soy milk. I was at that time allergic to regular milk, therefore this was my dietary substitute. Anyway, Grandma was distracted when the deliveryman came and didn’t see me make a swift and unexpected exit from the room. Luckily I just had skinned knees and elbows, and a few other bumps and bruises. But the battle lines were drawn. Stairs made it clear: they had it in for me.

Fast forward to 8th grade and our class trip to Washington DC. We took the old Southern Crescent train. I recall it was very hot, and one of the moms had packed fried chicken for a travel snack, which somehow was forgotten. Hours later, we were sickened by the odor of spoiled meat permeating the train. Once in our nation’s capital, our itinerary included the Washington Monument. In those days, you could climb inside to the top, so of course we did. As we made the endless ascent, someone fainted (amazed it wasn’t me). I yearned to turn around and go back down, but there was a huge crowd right behind me. The eventual view from the top was NOT worth the climb, in my book.

The house in Dunwoody, GA where I lived as a teen, was a true decorator’s nightmare. The piece de resistance was a bright green shag carpet that also covered the stairs. The carpet, besides being ugly, was also slippery, so I fell fairly often. For the past 30 years I have lived in houses with multiple floors, and I can say I have never once carried one of my babies up or down without trepidation (still feel that way with my grand babies). 

Recent memories of things vertical include the extremely narrow, winding staircase at Bryn Athyn Cathedral when I visited there. On the way back down, I took off my shoes and inched down backwards on my bottom---fear casts out shame! During our trip to Europe last spring, we stayed in a fourth floor walkup apartment in Paris. We also climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. That view of the city WAS pretty spectacular, and it crossed my mind to just live up there forever, rather than face the steep downward trek.

Not a "triomphe" for me!

By night, I have frequent nightmares of climbing stairs (often ice-covered); by day, I cannot deal with even a stepladder without feeling panicky. Phobic? You betcha. No matter—I surrender. The stairs have won. Someday I will settle down in a nice rancher, and never climb another step. Can’t come soon enough. 

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