Wednesday, March 19, 2008


(Puzzle piece number 11 of 38.)
What good are stairs if you can’t slide down ’em in some way? Of course, it’s better to plan the journey first.

I wish I were a kid for a day, so I could slide down my friend Patti’s carpeted stairs. Patti had a great laugh—sort of a fast rat-a-tat-tat-tat in the back of her throat that would fill a staircase with joy, and her little nose would crinkle like a tightened shar-pei’s neck.

Patti was the youngest in her family and lived in a warm, family-oriented home. Spoiled rotten, Patti’s parents let her get away with almost anything—and when I went to her house, so did I!

From the upper bedroom level, their house had eight steps down to the main level, then another eight steps down to the family room. Patti and I would bump and giggle, jolt and jiggle down those stairs for hours. Ready, set, bump-bump-bump-bump-bump-bump-bump-splat! Then we’d wiggle and waggle on our rears round the bend for the next set. “Wheeee!” Bump-bump-bump-bump-bump-bump-bump-splat! What a riot!

My stomach would ache from the jarring and laughter, and I wore out the seats of many pairs of pants. We probably wore down their carpet too.

That childhood experience must have lit a fire in my belly, because growing older didn’t hamper my enthusiasm for staircases in the least. When I got to high school and saw six long lengths of stairs with smooth wooden handrails and waist-high walls from which they hung, my first thought was, Wow! I could slide down those babies!

When high school protocol became familiar, some free-spirited guys and I would carefully scope for power figures, and if the coast was clear, we’d glide! Books in one arm, half-length wall on the other. We’d sail from a main floor down to the landing, round the corner and soar down to the next floor. We always felt giddy and lucky every time we escaped capture.

But one day the Luck Fairy was visiting a different school, and four boys and I were caught. I was petrified, thinking the worst: He’ll call my parents. He’ll expel me. He’ll publicly humiliate me, make me repent, dance, and sing in front of the entire student body. Contradicting prior events in my life, the principal made the boys walk up and down a length of stairs ten times: only the boys.

I never slid down the rail again, which took self-control because it was so risky, exciting, fun. It would be so cool to be in high school again…for just a day.

Back to the Patti era and right across the street. The stairs in our ranch-style house could have been seen as entertainment had they been padded and carpeted. But leading to our cold, dark, dank, concrete-floor basement were 13 consecutive steps—hard, rigid, wood steps.

Dad would walk down those steps each evening after work and on the weekends to put on his jeans and dirty-work shirt. He and I would then drive to our ranch to feed the livestock, while Mom stayed home to prepare dinner and think of dirty tricks to play on Dad.

One weekend evening Dad and I were driving home from the ranch after an exhausting day’s work. We were starving and looking forward to our showers. We parked in the driveway, tiredly extracted ourselves from the car, and headed toward the house.

I walked toward the upstairs bathroom as my dad headed downstairs. Without warning, I heard a bump-bump-bump-bump-bump-bump-bump-splat as my dad bellowed, “Joan-ieeeeeeee!” Mom had waxed the basement stairs.

What good are stairs if you can’t slide down ’em in some way? Of course, it’s better to plan the journey first. I wonder if his journey was planned. Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but is cleverness next to vengeance?

copyright © 2008 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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