I couldn’t even guess how many times I dragged myself up, or down, those steps. I’m sure there was stomping. Dragging one’s self down them to go to school. Running up them because you were home from school. There were more than a few rides down on stomachs and/or in laundry baskets. You wouldn’t think it could possibly be comfortable to lie on the steps for any length of time, but you’d be wrong. I remember lying on those steps for no reason other than I was a child and couldn’t think of anything else to do at that moment.
There were more than a few chases up, or down, as one sibling was intent on catching and pummeling another sibling.
I can remember a time or two just sitting on the second from the bottom step and looking out the window. Elbows planted on knees. Chin resting on fists. And daydreams floating by the window. I remember that’s where I was sitting when I tied my shoe for the first time all by myself. I yelled for mom. She was on the phone, but came to make sure I hadn’t fallen down the steps. She told me that was great.
For a large part of those years those steps were covered in a green carpet that I am sure does not exist anywhere any more.
The best part those steps play in my memory is the part they played at Christmas. Every Christmas Eve we had to go up those steps and go to bed at some unGodly hour of 6 or 7 pm. To be honest I don’t really remember the time because for many of those years I probably couldn’t tell time yet. But it was ridiculously early. Our parents would have a party. They would have friends and relatives over. And I’m pretty sure dad invited the people who were still at his bar (pub) when he closed on Christmas Eve and didn’t have any place to go, to come over and enjoy the party.
We would be upstairs listening to the party. We knew we would never get to sleep. I remember a time or two being the child forced to sneak downstairs for party food. And I remember a time or two forcing one of the younger ones to go downstairs and sneak some party food. To this day I still see miniature Rye bread loaves and Philadelphia Cream Cheese as a delicacy. There would usually be snow on the ground. At least in my nostalgic recollections. The neighbor’s house always had green and blue lights outlining their house and their tree. We would sneak up to the attic bedroom of “the boys” to look out at the street, and back to our own rooms to listen through the vents to the party sounds.
At some point we would indeed fall asleep. I don’t know how. With the party noises, the anticipation and all of the ruckus of siblings not wanting to be upstairs with the other siblings.
Sometime in the middle of the night, midnight, or 1 or 2 or 3 a.m. someone would wake us up. We would be tired, disoriented, and probably near comatose with the sugars we had pilfered from the party.
Then, we had to go downstairs. Down the steps. To get to the tree and the presents. We didn’t have to wait until morning. Because our parents couldn’t wait until morning. Or, they knew they would never wake up in the morning after the party hours.
Slowly we would make our way down. Forming a conga line of hesitant and now bashful children. I don’t ever remember running down the steps. It was more of a “you go first” – “no, you go first” argument. If you were lucky you had one of the smaller siblings to hold on to or carry to hide your embarrassment.
Eventually we would all be on the steps, strung out from the top of the steps (where the most timid of us was last to leave the sanctuary) to the bottom (where the one who was forced by the rest of us to go first). There may have been a picture or two taken or an 8 mm soundless video being recorded. Our eyes were blinded from going from the darkness of the upstairs to the brightly lit and merry downstairs.
The peoples who still remained would be seated around the edges of the floor. On the couch, in chairs. And the tree would be surrounded by gifts piled high, and often, flowing into the dining room.
For the briefest of time, the anticipation was resumed, and exacerbated, while we stood on those steps. Hesitant to leave the portal from sleep to the chaos that was about to erupt.
Our courage would be emboldened by the piles of presents awaiting more than the peoples who were trying to get us to come down those steps.
We would gradually all leave those steps.
And enter into the bedlam of Christmas Joy. Toys, paint by number boxes, underwear, police hats, hot wheels and loop de’ loop race tracks, and all of the paraphernalia of the day would be scattered and plowed through time and time again over the next few hours.
At some point up the steps we’d go again. Exhausted. Happy. Stuffed. Sugared up.
Carrying treasures and underwear.