As a child, I grew up in apartments. I don’t remember the first time I climbed a flight of stairs. When I was eight, my family moved to a small townhouse but it had a finished basement and a second floor. Twelve steps down and fourteen steps up. I slept in the basement and as I climbed the twenty-six stairs to our only bathroom for my morning shower before school, my younger brother on the second floor would listen for my footsteps and quickly get behind a locked door ahead of me to do his toiletries. My father got polio during the Second World War and walked with a limp his whole life, refusing to use a cane, but he climbed stairs for sixty years.
I was a waiter in places for thirty years and often, while carrying three or four plates, I could not see the floor or my feet. And all these decades later, I still remember how many stairs there were to each section. How broad they were, how deep or shallow they were, how soft they were.
I once lived in an apartment in Montreal that had one of those exterior black, metal stair cases. When the weather turned icy, getting into and out of home was almost un-navigable. My last home had many stairs up and down. Stairs to the bedroom, stairs to the TV room, stairs to the bathroom. Everything, good and bad, in that house led to a staircase.
I have seen puppies and old dogs on the stairs. Some learning them and some remembering them. And it’s no different for people. Young children and aged seniors only want the same thing. To climb up and to not fall down.
One can live in a single floor dwelling and still be challenged by stairs. The challenge might be to quit smoking or drinking or gambling. To stop going to the well-paying job one hates and start going to the lesser-paying job one loves. To climb to one’s true love or descend from one’s sorrow.
I don’t climb too many real stairs these days. But I still can. Real and metaphorical. But sometimes, it is important to remember how many stairs there are and be re-assured there is the hand rail to help you up or help you down.
We climb stairs all of our lives. Climbing up, climbing down. We might be holding a child or we might be holding laundry or groceries. In the end though, the most important thing I think, is that we hold up ourselves. Don’t fall, and get to the landing where we need to be. Safely.