In the house I lived in from the time I was two‑and‑a‑third until I was twenty, there are fourteen steps leading from the ground floor to the first floor.
When they were building the house, my dad and my uncles fitted the flat part of the stairs, the part you step on, into places measured twice and cut once, and their places clearly marked with the flat carpenter’s pencils I loved to play with once my fine motor control came in. With the sharp smell of Liquid Nails and a few squeals of a power drill each piece of wood became a step.
When you’ve just learned to use your feet, stairs are irresistible. At first our stairs had no railing and no backs to them and my mother was worried I would slip between them to the bald slab beneath. I was only allowed to climb up to a certain step. (I think it was about the fifth, but this was before I learned that there were numbers so I’m not sure.)
Soon there was a balustrade, but it seemed like the steps were backless for a long time. Maybe they were or it could be because the danger of slipping through them was impressed on me repeatedly by all of the five or six adults I lived with at the time.
The house was finished when I was two years, three months and twenty-seven days old and we moved into it from the Little House, the four-room cottage twenty or thirty metres away. Four days later my sister Melanie was born.
Sometime in next few months, when I was still two, I woke up in the middle of the night—that mysterious time when you’re not supposed to be awake and everything is dark and quiet and your parents are asleep. Frightened by a nightmare, I toddled down the hall to my parents’ bedroom and turned to climb up on their bed.
The ground disappeared beneath my feet and the next thing we know my parents heard thumping and bumping and they raced out to find me crumpled at the bottom of the stairs, screaming.
Nothing was broken or even seriously hurt. Kids are pretty bouncy until they’re about eight. I guess I slept the rest of the night in the parents’ bed. It took a long time for that habit to get broken.