Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Story Of The Stair Steps

Here's a cute little slice of my childhood. I daresay I'm three years old, sitting out on the steep steps of my front yard with my big brother. From the looks of the fresh iris leaves sprouting up around us, and the cozy outfits we're wearing, I figure this to be a sunny day in April.

But as I look upon this scene, I am transported to a snowy winter's morning - probably the following January - when a rather different and highly memorable event unfolded in this very same place.

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We woke up that morning to a major Michigan snowfall. The effect, as always, was dazzling and brilliant; like small children everywhere, my brother and I were breathless with excitement and wanted nothing more than to go out and explore this strange new world.

I recall that we had an appointment somewhere - maybe a doctor's visit for my third-born baby brother. But in any case, my mother did what she usually did when attempting to get three small children ready at the same time. She helped the older children first, then sent us out to play while she turned her attentions to the youngest. 

So much to our delight, my big brother and I soon found ourselves out in the bitterly cold winter wonderland, and I recall that we climbed down these steps and explored on the quiet lane that lay below.
{Now, it must be noted that on this winter's day, there was a simple steel pipe hand railing that ran alongside these steps. I don't see it in this photograph, though I suspect that my grandfather built it shortly after snapping this pose. In fact, it's likely that he was out working on it during the spring day in question, whereupon we wandered out to watch his progress, and he photographed his audience during a rest break.} 
I recall so clearly that morning in the snow. The brilliant sparkles cast by the sun across the frigid snow, the hushed quiet of the snowed-in neighborhood, and the crisp snap in the deep cold air.

I also remember examining the thick layer of frost that covered the pipe hand railing. The crystals were uncommonly thick and particular; fanciful and delicate beyond words, they looked too beautiful to be ice. They looked, to me, like something luxurious and elegant. And delicious.

Yes. Delicious enough to eat.

So I innocently and unknowingly did the unthinkable. I opened my mouth, put out my tongue and licked that frozen steel banister.

And my tongue froze fast to it in an instant. I was stuck.

Maybe I had been cautioned about this folly. I can't be sure. But I do know that I immediately understood my predicament, and began to think how to set myself free.

Right at this moment, my mom called to us, beckoning us to join her in the car.

My older brother rushed past me, up the steps, and noticing my delay, hollered for me to come along.

And I replied, "Ah han't hum. Ay hung ih uck."

I clearly recall the sight of him whipping around, gasping in horror at my predicament, and then wailing, "Moooooooommmmmm!" and rushing off to get help.

Within moments, my mother appeared at the top of the steps and gazed down on my misfortune. Clucking in exasperation, she told me to wait right there (!!!) and then she disappeared as well. Two minutes later, she reappeared with a pan of warm water, intending to pour it over the pipe in order to unfreeze my poor tongue.

But during this time, my little four-year-old brain was fast at work. Somehow, I figured out a way to gently close my mouth around the pipe without touching it, and breathe my warm little four-year-old breath over the frozen metal. Ever so careful not to let any more of my skin come into contact with the evil railing, I huffed as efficiently as I could, and before my mom could hustle down the steps, I managed to set myself free.

Gosh, I was pleased with myself. As we rode along to wherever we were going that morning, I kept rubbing my sore tongue against the roof of my mouth and pondering my strange and exhilirating adventure. I had absolutely no regrets.

* * * * *

A few years later, as part of a major home remodel, a new set of stairs was built at the other end of the bank, and these stair steps - as well as the trouble-making hand rail - were removed. They exist now only in this surviving photograph, and in my memory of that eventful winter's day.

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Ready for more stories about Michigan, my mitten-shaped home land? 

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More stories about my mom:

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More stories of my magical childhood adventures:

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