They are just 5 steps.
I like to travel light and travel softly. From one border to the next, experiencing the freshness and the antiquity of a single place. From one cobblestone to the next, from one home to the next, life seems to be an ebb and flow of travel. The ground beckons with all of the memories it holds onto. This is when life feels right, when I am awake and aware of the world’s unique beauty.
I notice one particular entity when I travel. Not the terrain, or the architecture, or the food, but the staircases. With each step you get a little closer to the place you want to be. They are like an interim, between point A and B. Interims don’t seem particularly important, but much change can happen in interim.
I have a set of stairs I like. They are just 5 stairs. They aren’t exotic, they aren’t new, and they are speckled in stains and brimmed with a banister that creaks and moans. At the bottom is a door that has been painted many times and at the top is a humble living room that breathes and ages just like me. Those five simple stairs have seen many moons and many sunrises. They have seen laughter and sorrow, change and stagnation. Just like me and the living room, those stairs breathe with life and age with time. In the depths of their carpet, they hold many stories.
I was very small when I clung to those stairs for comfort. It was a sunny day, a good day to be outside, but there I sat, at the top of the stairs, clutching onto the creaky banister. I kept my eyes fixed on the blinking lights of the ambulance. When mom left the house she told me to stay inside, so I got as close to the outside as I could.
In moments like that I long for the sun to penetrate my skin. I long for kisses and breezes to touch my face. I long to understand, but I was left in the dark with those five stairs as my security. I sat on the top step, looking out the screen door feeling overcome with a juggernaut of emotions. My bones were waging uncertainty versus the inevitable. I was so small; I could barely keep it in.
Those stairs also taught me responsibility. My widowed mother hardly had enough time in the day to cook for us, so she did what all good moms do: she ordered a pizza. Rarely would we get pizza delivered to our house. We usually would pick it up ourselves, cutting out the middleman. But, on this particularly hectic day, we got the pizza delivered.
My mother gave me a five dollar bill and told me to give it to the pizza guy when he came to our front door. I felt like I grew two shoe sizes that day. Me, a five year old, paying for pizza? I was practically an adult. I took the money and sat in the middle of those five stairs, thinking of what it would be like to have a job and own a house.
I’ve never studied a five dollar bill more intensely in my life. I read all of the words, deciphered the distorted looking numbers, and stared at Abraham Lincolns face. My favorite part of the five dollar bill was the Lincoln Memorial. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I imagined myself walking up the stairs to look at the Lincoln statue. Oh, the people who have walked on those stairs. They are rich in history and love, just like my five stairs.
Along with responsibility, I learned some patience the day I seemed to grow two shoe sizes. It felt like it was taking ages for the pizza man to come, but I continued to wait on those five stairs. I continued to study the five dollar bill and imagined tick-tocking in my head, anticipating the big moment. When he finally came, I got up from my post and opened the front door. The front door didn’t seem so big anymore. He was scruffy and intimidating, but I successfully fulfilled my duty. I handed him the five dollar bill and took the pizza upstairs, walking in an air of accomplishment.
Those stairs have offered a lot, including some adventure. One Christmas I got a toy box. It was white with a pink lid. I was baffled that I got a box to put toys in, but no toys. The poor, unwanted toy box sat in the basement for a while, slowly forming a collection of misfit toys. Then, we had an idea.
My brother and sister and I collected every blanket, pillow, and relatively soft object we could find in the house and piled them high in front of the door at the bottom of those five steps. We took the pink lid off of the toy box and placed it at the top of the stairs. There was just enough room for the three of us on the lid.
Three. Two. One. Lift off. We thumped down the stairs and safely landed on our soft landing pad. Over and over again we flew down those five stairs. The ride was short, but we still reveled in belly laughs at the bottom. In those moments our bond grows tighter as we share in joy and love.
Those five stairs echo many memories. The good and the bad. The ugly and the beautiful. They’re the first thing you see when you walk into our well lived in home and one of the last things you see when you say goodbye.
Now I am 319 miles away from those dear five stairs. Sometimes my heart aches for the memories that they hold. I have seen many staircases over the years. Ones that lead to precarious catwalks, ones that lead to beautiful terrace views, and ones that lead to not so homey dorm rooms; they pale in comparison to those five stairs.
I have to travel far to come home now. When I do, I feel like I am finally home when I walk up those five stairs.
They may be just five stairs, but they are my five stairs.