Tuesday, December 8, 2009
The Stairs of Home
The only sounds in the house were the wind whipping down the street and thin flakes of plaster and paint falling now and again from the water-damaged ceilings to break with a sound like old eggshells on the dusty oak and maple floors.
The dust and grime of an empty house were everywhere as you headed up the stairs to the bedrooms and bath on the second floor, but at least there some of the windows that had been only cracked had been patched using acrylic sheeting and silicone so some sunlight broke into the rooms.
The bathroom had yellow-green tub connected to nothing, a toilet that had shattered from cold and a sink that had to be re-plumbed.
The house had been so long empty that even mice had moved elsewhere and scattered all through the house – mainly painted a much-grubbied flat white – were scrawled profanities, references of love to a girl named Felina and notes to a personage named Joel who was to stay out of the kitchen and bathroom.
The only space under that was possibly tame was the attic, and that possibility was only visible after tapping into the fort-building skills of a creative childhood. So we tapped. And hauled and rearranged until we were to be found squatting in our own attic. Since the budget set for the house by our broker didn’t go as far as he’d hoped before he passed away, it would be another seven months before the house had working plumbing beyond a basic toilet and it will be this Christmas before the kitchen is functioning.
But this year has been an interesting one in the development of our concept of home. Living on the third floor of a house set one-half a floor above ground meant a lot of stairs. Up from the back door to the kitchen. Up from the front hall to the bay in the landing. Up from the bay to the upper hall. Up from the hall to the attic with its pine floor, walls and ceiling.
A sofa and chair. Coffee table. Bookcases and mountains of books. Art supplies. Our make-shift dining table. Boxes of china. Paintings tucked wherever they would fit. A bed in one corner. Dressers in the back dormer. Everything involving home meant hauling up and down seemingly endless stairs to a space that was an odd hybrid of Rapunzel’s tower, Swiss Family Robinson’s tree house and Anne Frank’s annex. Home became all about stairs and waiting the winter out so we could begin expanding into the rest of the house.