There are places in a house that become entities within themselves. Corners are more than forgotten spaces, and walls are more than drywall and paint. Corners become home to Christmas trees, play areas, and backpack piles. Walls become showcases for school photos, homemade artwork, and tiny, grubby finger prints. We take the physical space around us and turn it into something more meaningful; the intangible feelings of home manifest themselves in physical ways. There is a constant push and pull of our lives’ fluctuations seen all over our houses.
In my house, this is seen most visibly on my staircase.
My steps showcase the purgatory of our lives. Between rounds of hectic morning nagging, I ask my kids to pick up their pajamas from the middle of the floor and put them in their proper location. The PJs make it as far as the staircase, where they waterfall their way down the bottom three steps. I slide their inside out clothes toward the banister so I don’t step on them as I walk up and down the stairs. I then walk around the pile of laundry that needs to be taken upstairs.
The laundry is seen but ignored for days. Carrying it upstairs means either putting it away or finding somewhere else to put it, and I don’t have time for either. A rotation of coats, sweaters, jeans, and sweatpants hang off of the banister all day long, one item being exchanged for another. My steps are the most convenient dresser in the house, and the clothes that linger are signs of who is home and who is not. And who has laundry not yet ready to go to the hamper.
Toys litter the steps too. The “put it away or I will throw it away” threat means action figures, stuffies, and Lego creations are placed on the staircase. Not quite “away,” but not in the middle of the floor either. The same rule applies for books too. I like to pretend that I will have a chance to read a chapter or two of anything without pictures, so I have a book in between floors, just in case. It’s really just a sad reminder that I don’t have the time to read anything more than newsletters from the school or graphic novels about Captain Underpants. School books not in backpacks and library books not next to night stands are stored there too so we can keep track of them.
Rolls of toilet paper begging to be placed under a sink or in a closet sit and dare the person walking by to take responsibility and put them where they belong. The same goes for tubes of toothpaste or shampoo bottles unloaded from grocery bags. I have food to put away. I will just stick the Q-tips and tampons right on the 5th step. That’s like halfway up. Someone will surely carry those items the rest of the way upstairs when they go. Right?
Not only do bathroom items get stuck in the shuffle of the in-between, but resentment and complacency stay there too.
Why am I always the one changing the toilet paper roll?
Not my (insert object), not my concern.
I’m gonna break an ankle on all of this shit! (Side-steps all the shit.)
I asked her to put that away. It will stay there forever for all I care. (It won’t stay there forever. Puts it away for her but not without lots of sighing.)
WHY is this broken toy here again? I thought I threw that in the trash. (Goes to throw it in the trash again, says fuck it, and walks around it.)
And there are reminders too.
The kids have basketball several times a week so there are rec t-shirts waiting to be worn between practices. There is no use putting them away; they aren’t dirty enough for the laundry, but I don’t want them back in the drawers with clean clothes. There are pants that need to be patched or stitched. No, this is not Little House on the Prairie, but I am cheap and crafty. Sometimes there is a bucket of cleaning supplies ready to be used, most likely by me because I am the one who cleans the bathroom. That doesn’t mean my kids won’t grab the toilet bowl brush and have a sword fight until I remind them they are playing with their own feces.
Party invitations, slippers, two-year-old Christmas photographs from a third cousin, and a random container of Goldfish; nothing is off limits when your stairs are the equivalent to open air junk drawers.
Our steps are a reminder, too, that nothing is ever really put away when you are home. The comfort and sometimes laziness that comes with settling into a space is messy. It’s also convenient. Much like the stuff on constant display, so are our emotions. We are either up, down, or halfway there. The steps are a dumping ground for the tangible things in life.
But if you look closely at those steps, if you peek in the corners of rooms, and scan the walls providing support, you will see that all of those spaces in a house are dumping grounds for our heart too.