I don't have a great history with stairs. As a child we lived in a townhouse that had a set of stairs with a landing in the middle. You would walk halfway up then there was the landing area then a turn and you walked the rest of the way up. I fell down these stairs a lot. A LOT. And I wouldn't just fall down the first section. I can remember falling down the first section hitting the landing with enough momentum that I would make the turn and then continue to fall down the second set! I was and still am full of grace. I have fallen down and up more sets of stairs than I can even remember. Yes, up stairs. It takes true talent to fall up stairs, but I have it.
When Brent was in the Navy in a pre- 9/11 world you could take dinner out to the guys when they were on duty and hang out on the ship with them. The ladders on the ship were always a trick. A ladder is a very steep set of metal stairs between deck levels. The trick to them is that not only were you going up and down steep STEEP steps but you were going through an opening in the floor that wasn't huge so you had to watch your head at the same time. Don't bump your head, don't fall down the stairs and stick to the correct side or you will get run over by someone coming up or going down that doesn't see you there. I was never very fast at maneuvering the ladders.
For the longest time my family thought I was scared of heights. I wouldn't go up on the tall slide, I wouldn't climb up in to the hayloft, I wouldn't go out on the upper deck at a friend's house so people just assumed I was scared of heights. It's not the heights, it's the stairs. And the ladders. Ladders after all are just super steep stairs.
But the scariest set of stairs of them all were in my Grandparent's farm house. I was terrified of those stairs. They were incredibly narrow and extremely steep. The second floor was where the kid's bedrooms were when we stayed with them. I don't think they used the upper floors of the house at all when we weren't around. It had that old musty smell to it. Iowa heat and humidity baked in to walls. There was a wasp's nest outside the window of the room Susan and I slept in and that was terrifying as well. But just getting up and down the stairs always scared me. That raise the hairs on the back of your neck creeped out feeling. And every summer I would think, this year, I won't be scared of the stairs, and every summer I still was.
They also had a root cellar and to get down in to the root cellar you used a pretty steep set of wooden steps. I can still smell the bag of potatoes that had stayed too long in the cellar and started to re-sprout when I think about it. But the root cellar never scared me. You would think steep steps into the dirty, smelly cellar with the spiders would be much scarier than the steps up to the bedrooms, but for some reason it just wasn't. Maybe it's because the canning was in the root cellar so going down there meant coming back up with peaches or gooseberries or cherries.
The stairs up to the rooms in my Grandparent's house have featured in my nightmares since I was a very little kid. I will need to get someplace and have to take those stairs and they will get steeper and steeper and steeper until I cannot walk up them anymore. And I freeze. And can't go up or down. And the feeling of impending doom hits. Then I wake up, heart pounding, palms sweating, gasping for air. And yes, I know that to explain that one of the scariest dreams I have is about walking up the stairs at my grandparent's house is weird.
When I was maybe 8 or 9 I told my mother I would rather just sleep on the couch when we visited her parents. I am not sure if I told her why or if she even asked but I know from that point until my grandfather died and we stopped going back to Iowa every summer I was allowed to sleep downstairs. It was a huge relief to me in the waking world but it never stopped the nightmares from coming.
I wonder now if I could go back and walk through their old house and see those steps if they really were that steep and that scary or if it's just the fact that I was so small. Sort of like most things that you remember being so big from your childhood really aren't. The difference in viewing something from 2-3 feet higher in the air. I can't imagine I will ever make it back to Leroy, Iowa or even I did I have no idea if that old farmhouse is still standing. But someday maybe I will have a dream where I make it up the stairs with no problems and banish them from my psyche and my fear of steep stairs and ladders will go away.
Or maybe I will just buy a one story house the next time we move....