To get to my front door, you must climb 52 steps up from the street. 52 steps is approximately three and a half flights of stairs in your average building stairwell. When I found the place, I thought, this could suck, but the kitchen is new and they take dogs. Steps it would have to be.
My friends Heather and Robbie in Santa Cruz have even more steps to their front door. I think they are in the high 70 range and the staircase twists and turns through the redwoods, but also has a peculiar quality to it that makes you feel as if you are climbing an escalator in reverse. That sucker is long. Oh, and it must be mentioned that they have three kids, all of whom have learned to navigate those treads like mini Billy goats since the time they were learning to walk.
When you live at the top of such an ascent you become very adept at carrying every item you procured along the way of your day, all at the same time. It is critical to become your own highly organized porter, counterbalancing your goods from computer bags to mail to babies and children, dogs on leashes and yes, always, leaving a free hand for your keys. It is very important to be able to unlock and open the door while still clinging to all the packages/small humans/canines and then have one drop point only (This is why women were the “gatherers.” We carry a lot of shit.) Plus, no one ever likes retrieve a forgotten parcel in the car at the bottom of the stairs. After time, the climbing does not even phase you, and in fact, you become quite proud when you have completed a considerably strenuous trip without dropping a thing. I know this because Heather and I have boasted, oh I mean commiserated, about stair carrying/climbing achievements.
This past spring, after a few very dark winter months for me, I heard from my dear old friend Ceci. She called to say hi and tell me that she was going to be in California in a few weeks as she was on a Warmer Winter Climate Tour, having started in the fall in California, then made her way to Florida and stopped in between over the miles and months. Ceci and I have the awesome ability to always pick up right where we left off, and immediately get to the present and feel happy and comfortable and get right to the important stuff, which is to laugh. She is one of my laughing friends. We share a silliness, and now, a long history, so we are never at a loss to giggle it up. We are also realists, and curious intellectually and spiritually, and are both pretty intense. We like our opinions, but love a good conversation with interesting people. So to hear that I was going to get some Ceci time, I was overjoyed and knew her visit was going to give me some much needed old friend love and laughs and move me out of the rut. We started making plans for her to stay with me for a couple nights, a good old fashioned slumber party.
Then I remembered the steps. Goddammittohell, the steps. Part of the reason Ceci was on her Warmer Winter Climate Tour is because she has MS. And the cold in her little Colorado town, not to mention the nine months of snow, ice, mud and again COLD, aggravates her body in a way that can be totally avoided by merely getting out of there. That and, she was trying out her new wheelchair. The paralysis that showed up in her legs over the years finally made it too hard to get around without one, so she had one made and decided to take it on the road to learn how to use it and teach herself how to look at it as a way to stay involved in her very full life as opposed to an impediment to it. However, my 52 steps were going to put up a huge fight against the groovy new chair, so a bit deflated, I described the situation and told her to think about it. We could maybe just meet for lunch (sucky, not long enough), or stay at a hotel (too expensive for me, sucky) or what. What could we do?
When she called me back a few days later she had a solution. “Dude, can you piggy back me?” Um, am I not the Queen Sherpa of Edison Avenue? Hell yes, I could piggy back her, and I’d deal with all the luggage, the chair etc. She proudly told me she was in incredible shape and quite slim, so not to worry about the weight. So it was settled, she would come and stay for two nights, and I would piggy back her up and down, and we’d get our much needed laugh and visit time.
Here’s the thing about piggy backing your dear friend up your 52 steps: that bitch makes you laugh. And laughter is the kryptonite of muscle strength. She had all the logistics down, where and how to set up the chair, what to place in which spot, which bag to bring and then finally, exactly how to get her securely piggyed-on to me. Anything I’d say is an understatement to how impressed I was at her organizational prowess except this: she knew exactly how to take care of herself even though I was about to be a big part of that. That was the very thing that put me at ease and gave me complete confidence that I could safely carry her up and down the stairs. Once I stopped laughing of course.
We had a wonderful weekend together, cooked some great food, told old and new stories, watched movies, called old friends and just laughed. When I transported her back down the steps for the last time and she hit the road, I turned to go back up to the casita. I looked up that long, long flight and thought that it was Ceci who climbed these steps, not me. It may have been my legs doing the physical labor, but it was her gracious trust in me that allowed her to climb them. I know that a cure is coming for her and for many of my friends also afflicted. And I know it because she carried my heart that day.
Click “Comments” below to see comments from original FB posts.