Saturday, September 12, 2009


I love stairs. Stairs going up to something wonderful, stairs leading down into interesting places, skinny stairways, hidden stairways, curving stairways, I love them all. So it isn't surprising that I wanted at least a story and a half in the house when we built it, that I wanted stairs. I couldn't wait for beautiful hardwood stairs with a landing and lovely white railing.

Lucky me, I have front and back steps, a staircase to the rooms above the garage, and a staircase inside.

As is often typical in this life when we are filled with anticipation, the actual fell short of the picture in my mind. Though I have beautiful stairs, actually living with the style the architect designed for the house has been less than ideal. And why? Because for me, and my aging pets, the treads of the stairs are too narrow for every day ups and downs. This makes for a less safe staircase for people and pets. It is hard for me to carry laundry down the stairs and feel secure. It is hard for older people to climb up the few stairs to the porch. It is easy for everyone to slip and fall down.

I was able to request that the builder put wider treads on the brick stairs leading to the front porch. He was certain they would look ridiculous, but once they were complete, all the other neighbors asked for similar width - and to me, they are perfect.

Mr. Bryant built wide steps to the back door for me. Again, perfect. We can stand, find our keys, enter the house, and not teeter-totter while holding the grocery bags. The dogs can get up and down with ease.

The steps leading to above the garage are what they are, and the dogs just have to take them carefully. We only head up there periodically though, and even now blind cat can maneuver them on the rare occasion that she heads out that way to find us. I do love the look of these steps as they weather and gain a patina from the sun and rain.

And unfortunately, the inside steps are what they are as well. We would have had to redesign everything in the house to accommodate wider stair treads. And so, when my Newfoundland (Christmas Carol) was older, she was not able to come up and be with me in my wonderful office or library. And recently our little Pekingese slipped and fell down step after step after step. When I heard the commotion I came running from the office and found him cowering under the dining room table, limping on both a front paw and a back leg, unable to walk much without yelping.

I was distraught, and cursed at the stairs and the architect and the builder, and thought about the wonderful old staircase in my grandparents house, with the wide railing and the big post and the broad landings, and wondered why houses today are not built as well for living. I cried and held my puppy, and talked to the vet, and fed him tender meats for dinner. And after things settled down, I remembered that narrow stairs have truly been around forever. In smaller houses, in outside lanes, on the way to the attic, leading down to the basement, in the older houses in Charleston, in the older houses everywhere. Some of my favorite staircases are narrow and winding. I lived in a house where the stairs to the bedroom were hidden behind the fireplace from the living room, and even though there was a landing, the staircase was narrow.

So I gave up my anger, said a prayer for protection for all people and pets on stairs everywhere, and hugged my puppy. And now, I carry him up and down the steps.


Heart of a Cowgirl said...

Poor little guy! I bet he just waits for you to carry him up the stairs now, knowing that you will take care of him.
The things we do for our pets. :)

Heart of a Cowgirl said...

Poor little guy! I bet he just waits for you to carry him up the stairs now, knowing that you will take care of him.
The things we do for our pets. :)

Heart of a Cowgirl said...

Hmmm... not sure why that posted twice?

NancyB said...

I have 2 flights of steps to go up; first one leads to kitchen, livroom, etc, 2nd one leads to bedrooms. I used to love them. Now I hate them. No matter how poetic stairs can be, they are a hazard for me (and pets)

grandpa jay said...

Our poor puppy!

Maggie said...

The stairs where I grew up were wide with a big landing at the turn. When my grandfather and grandma grew fragile, there was room to install an inclinator of all one piece right to the top. In this house, all my stairs are miserly, Narrow treads like yours, and steep too as our house is narrow. We were young when we bought this place....our only excuse. Now I will be thinking of you every time I head up or down.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Stairs: what a wonderful metaphor for living. Up, down, and those mysterious landings in between. Nice photos, too!


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