A Banister Adorned With Memories

It’s the place that forms the backdrop to more childhood memories than I realized. It was here, at the top of the stairs, peering through the balusters, that my brother and I watched surreptitiously for Santa when we were kids.

It’s the place where we searched for an imaginary bunny conjured by our cousin Grace, in her efforts to keep us occupied and out from underfoot. (Not calculating the obsessive, tenacious loyalty of children when given the benefit of attention and conversation.)

It’s the place where I listened to my grandmother try to defend me to my father, saying, “He’s just different” to which my Dad replied with curt exasperation, “He’s mean.”

It’s the place where, when frightened as kids will sometimes be in the dark of night, I pleaded, begged, and screamed for my mother to not make me go into my bedroom alone, through fears and tears and an irrational and paralyzing terror, and where she was so mad she refused to let me come downstairs.

It’s the place where I watched with wonder the comings and goings of guests and visitors to our home, and the way they presented themselves to the world. I could peer around the corner and see the front door, watching from that undetected vantage point, though some people somehow knew they were being watched, their eyes traveling up and almost catching me. For the most part, I was good at keeping hidden; I knew which part of the top flight of stairs to avoid so it wouldn’t creak and reveal my presence. I knew that if I could see someone’s eyes, enough of my head was showing that they could spot me too. For the most part, though, I could do what I do best – observe – from an unknown and unseen location.

It’s the place I decorated with light-festooned holiday garland ~ first in traditional red and green, then making an unlikely detour into a Victorian-inspired rose and pink hued theme, accented by strands of white braided rope and pearls. (Yes, I was already that gay, way back when.)

So much of life played out on that staircase, but most people were usually too transitory to notice. I was never like that. I always noticed. I remembered the last few times my Dad carried me up those stairs, before I got too old, too big. I remember bounding down them on Christmas mornings, as well as trudging reluctantly up them on still-light summer nights. I remember being so mad – at the world, at my mother, at myself – that I jumped off the last four steps and pounded my heels into the landing so hard that I couldn’t walk for the rest of the day. I remember sliding down them backwards, stomach on the soft carpet, feet first – just like my nephew Noah does today. I don’t remember being part of anything, but I remember watching much of it unfold, all from that lofty perch.


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