I love old homes. The older the better. In my opinion, pre-1900s is the perfect time for a home to have been built. Those house are sturdy and have character. They are also a bit under insulated, and that’s why my husband doesn’t particularly care for them. But he humors me because he loves me.
I also love to move. My mother said I had “itchy feet,” but that sounds like something I want to stay away from more than embrace. I like to think that I’m and adventurer. So when my husband comes home with stories involving other melt shops or rolling mills within the company, I start to wonder what it might be like there.
The most recent was a story about a supervisor in Memphis getting promoted to a manager position in New York. My ears perked up at the sound of New York. This is not the first time New York state has been a topic of conversation in our house. We entertained the idea of moving there about 10 years ago. Now that we’ve lived in the South for 4+ years with little to no snow during the winter, I dare say the novelty of warm winters has worn off, and the prospect of once again having a wintry wonderland to celebrate Christmas has sparked a hankering to move a little north. So I did what any other self-respecting adventurer would do and downloaded the Realtor.com app to my phone and started searching homes in Aurora, Syracuse and Seneca Falls.
I hit the motherload! There are pre-1900 homes galore in upstate New York! One in particular that caught my eye, attention and imagination is a 1870s, 3200 sq. ft. beauty.
Stained glass windows, hard wood floors, 6 bedrooms, three stories, ornate woodwork, three fireplaces… must I go on? This house was built for me!
I was having lunch with a friend, and while showing her the pictures, I was telling her about the house that I grew up in. Although, it was not as grandiose as this one, it had its charms: all wood floors, large bay window, semi-grand staircase, ornate woodwork, pocket doors, built-in china hutch, etc. My childhood home had a secondary staircase which wasn’t so grand, in fact it was narrow, steep and dark. That was the one the family used because to use the main staircase, we’d have to go out into the front hall which was always sweltering in the summer and arctic in the winter.
That secondary staircase caused a lot of problems. Almost everyone in my family has fallen down those stairs. The main culprit being the length of the stairs, which was approximately the same length as a seven-year-old child’s foot. Running up the stairs was no problem. Rushing down them at any speed was taking your life into your own hands.
My fifty-year old aunt slipped on the top step and slid on her knees all the way to the bottom. We heard rumbling in the living room, but it was the heavy thump on the door that catapulted my father out of his armchair to see if his little sister was okay. When he opened the door, Aunt Betty, with a frantic look on her face, slid onto the dining room floor where my father helped her up, dusted her off, checked for broken bones by putting her through a routine of calisthenics that her body hadn’t seen in 30 years before pronouncing her good as gold. Aunt Betty never descended those stairs again, opting to freeze or roast on the main staircase.
#9 also had a memorable fall down those stairs, also. In the late 70’s or early 80’s, biker boots and Wallabees were the shoes of choice for nonconformists. My brother opted for the biker boots. They were heavy and clunky and he couldn’t sneak around worth crap, so it made no sense for him to own a pair considering he was the only one in the family who could sneak up the secondary staircase without it creaking.
Early evening, my parents and I were watching t.v. when #9 comes through the front door, clomps across the living room, clomps up stairs, across the hall to his bedroom, back across the hall, and there are two or three distinct clomps prior to a rumble, pound and a heavy thud. I jump up and run to the stairway door. I open it and watch as #9 rolls out of the doorway and spread eagle onto the dining floor, his boots making one last clomp for emphasis.
Dad came around the corner, looked at #9, and asked, “What happened?”
Befuddled by the question, I answered, “He fell down the stairs, Pops.” We both looked at #9 waiting for him to do something – get up, roll over, moan. He just laid there.
I began to worry and told Pops, “Oh my gawd, Pops, I think he knocked himself out.”
So my dear father did what any loving father would do, he poked #9 in the ribs with his foot a few times and asked, “Hey, #9. You all right?” #9 grunted with each poke.
“Oh gall, Pops, don’t do that! He could have broken ribs!” Why I was being protective of a brother whose one mission in life was to exterminate me, I will never know, but I was genuinely concerned.
My dad looked at me and said, “Don’t be such a sissy. He’s fine. Believe me, if his ribs were broken that little nudge would have brought’em up off that floor.” Pops reached down, grabbed #9’s upper arm, flipped him over and said, “Get up. You’re fine.” Then went back to the living room where Mom sat on the couch.
Not completely convinced that he was okay, I stayed to make sure he didn’t need an ambulance.
#9 had the wind knocked out of him, and once he could breathe again, the bruises where his body slammed against the wooden stairs were the only evidence of the accident. He was back to his normal self within days, and those stairs went back to claiming victims every few years.
I loved my family’s home. Now it is someone else’s home, and an entirely new family is experiencing those stairs. I hope they finally put up a hand rail.