Purchase collections of Elizabeth Hudson’s columns at ourstatestore.com. Of all the things I’d revisit if I could slip back in time, I’d take one more walk up the staircase at
Purchase collections of Elizabeth Hudson’s columns at ourstatestore.com.
Of all the things I’d revisit if I could slip back in time, I’d take one more walk up the staircase at our old house, the one with steps made from solid red oak and spindles that my mother kept oiled and polished; the one that I bounded up, two steps at a time, to answer the phone in my bedroom before my parents picked it up downstairs; the one I trudged down in the morning before school, the smell of my dad’s coffee — always Maxwell House — filling the kitchen.
I’ve sat on the top step of the staircase and pushed off, bumping along, imagining my own indoor luge like I saw during the Winter Olympics, popping up and adding a twirl at the bottom of the stairs like Dorothy Hamill. I’ve swung my legs over the banister to propel myself down like the children in Mary Poppins.
By the time I was in high school and our house began to settle into its age, I’d learned exactly which steps creaked and groaned. On nights when I missed my curfew, I slipped off my shoes — always Keds — and crept up the stairs in my socks without turning on any lights, careful to avoid the noisiest spots, certain that my parents would never know I’d come in late. (They always knew.)
I remember navigating those stairs the night of my senior prom, steadying myself in satin heels, the crinoline underneath my Jessica McClintock dress brushing the wall. I remember my mom and dad waiting at the landing for me to appear, beaming as if I were the most beautiful girl they’d ever seen, and making me feel as if that were true.
I marched down those stairs with a graduation gown on and loped down them again lugging duffel bags packed for college. I climbed them slowly on the day my parents moved from the house, touching the nail hole on the wall where their wedding sampler, stitched by my grandmother, had been taken down.
This time of year, when I see houses softly lit with candles in the windows — always the way we did it, too — and trees twinkling with ornaments, I have another memory of childhood, one from that first year in our house, when I was 7 years old.
I was awakened on Christmas Eve by a clack-clack-clacking coming from downstairs, and whether it was reindeer hooves or elves pattering across the floor, I didn’t know, but I crawled out of bed, made my way silently down those stairs, and tiptoed to the edge of the den, where I saw my dad sitting cross-legged on the floor, a candy-apple red Petite Elite typewriter before him. A leaf of paper was rolled under the platen, and for a few seconds I watched my dad peck at the keys and nibble on the Oreo cookie from the plate I’d left beneath the tree.
Just as the realization of what I was seeing became clear, my dad turned, spotted me, and, in one smooth, swift motion, jumped up and scooped me into his arms and carried me back upstairs. “Let’s get you back up to bed,” he whispered with a smile, and I squeezed my eyes shut, neither of us quite ready for explanations, for the march of time. We still had Christmas morning ahead of us when, like always, I’d run down the stairs before the sun came up to see what surprises awaited, what moments would become the memories I’d carry forever.
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